Dailly driven by a 10-year hitch

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The Independent Online

It is a measure of how impoverished Scotland were when Walter Smith took over from Berti Vogts in December 2004 that he tried to tempt Duncan Ferguson back out of international retirement along with his Everton colleague David Weir.

Big Dunc may be revered at Goodison Park, but his potency is a myth when it comes to the dark blue of his country. Just one goal in seven appearances was the towering striker's sorry statistic. In that company, Christian Dailly is prolific with six. The West Ham defender sent Scotland on the road to a vital 2-1 win in Lithuania on Wednesday night in Kaunas that puts Smith's team top of Group B - on goal difference from France - in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

The powerful header, as Dailly climbed above his markers, would have drawn admiration even from Ferguson, with whom he once shared a dressing room at Dundee United. Ironically, there were far greater expectations at Tannadice of Dailly than his team-mate, who went on to rack up more than £20 million in transfer fees. Dailly was something of a child prodigy striker and made his debut for United at 16, when he, naturally, scored.

Now 32, with 63 caps, Dailly is eager to savour a major tournament one more time in his career after the long wait since the 1998 World Cup finals."If we get to Euro 2008, it will be 10 years between finals, and that is far too long," he said. "I was a young player then and you never think it will take a long time to happen again. To go seven games unbeaten away from home is unheard-of for Scotland. It is a tremendous run, but Walter has done a great job since taking over. We are more organised and the players have more belief."

Lithuania's impressive draw with Italy in Naples in the opening fixture appeared to add to a considerable task for Scotland, who lost on this ground in the last European Championship campaign three years ago. Dailly and the other goalscorer, Kenny Miller, were among the five survivors from that previous trip to Kaunas, with not one of the seven substitutes selected by Vogts in 2003 even in the Scotland picture now.

Next up are France, at Hamp-den on 7 October; Thierry Henry and Co are very much the form team after winning in Georgia and then taking revenge on Italy in Paris for that World Cup final defeat. Smith refuses to get carried away with his own team's six points out of six, but recognises that casting off low self-esteem is important. "I'm not saying that the likes of Italy and France are all of a sudden going to fear us, but I think they will definitely have to show us some respect," he insisted.

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