Gordon Strachan urges Scotland to light up Burns' night


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The Independent Football

Gordon Strachan, the Scotland manager, has told his players to set up a successful weekend for Scottish sport by delivering a knockout blow to Belgium.

The Scots host the Group A leaders in a World Cup qualifier at Hampden, 24 hours before boxer Ricky Burns defends his WBO lightweight title against Raymundo Beltran in Glasgow. Burns was at the national stadium this morning to meet the Scotland manager and the players before all parties prepare to face their respective tough challenges.

Asked if he had any advice for the Coatbridge fighter, Strachan said: "I had about 10 seconds as a boxer. I got smacked in the face, threw the gloves away and went home to my mother crying. So I've got absolutely no advice to give to him. I've got to say, they are the bravest people in sport, these boxers. We are hoping that, over the weekend, Ricky will do well and we will do well. Hopefully, we can start the ball rolling for a terrific weekend of sport."

Strachan wants to see bravery from his own players as they aim to put on a show for the Tartan Army against a strong Belgian side. He said: "You have to be brave on the ball but not in silly areas. It's difficult to take the game to people. It's easier to defend when the ball is coming at you. You have to be pro-active at home more.

"I think that's what the fans would like to see. But the fans are not stupid – they understand we are playing against one of the best teams in the world. The expectations would be us trying to do what I have been trying to set up, to keep the ball and be progressive at the same time.

"We need to be looking at every opportunity to go forward, looking at our good players to take people on. Then, when we lose the ball, have a good shape which makes it difficult for great players to play. That's what they can expect and that's what we have to give them."

Belgium boast a three-point advantage at the top of the pool, while Scotland's own hopes of reaching Brazil next summer are long gone, despite their win in Croatia in June. But Strachan does not believe motivation should be an issue on the night. "I don't think you should need to be motivated if you are a professional footballer and enjoy a game of football," he said.

Goalkeeper Allan McGregor misses the game and Tuesday's encounter with Macedonia through injury and is set to be replaced by Cardiff's David Marshall. George Boyd, James Morrison and Graham Dorrans pulled out of the squad on Monday while Strachan hinted at a number of other injury concerns.