O'Neill backs Maloney to strike for Vogts

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The Independent Football

Berti Vogts, the Scotland manager, admitted he is feeling the pressure as the most crucial phase of the Euro 2004 qualifying trail looms. Tonight's friendly here against Norway doubles as the final preparation before a qualification double-header with the Faroe Islands and Germany next month.

The Scots know they must beat the Faroes, who held them to a 2-2 draw in Toftir last year, next month to have a chance of qualifying for the finals.

Anything brought back from Dortmund a few days later would be a big bonus and Vogts is also very much aware that Iceland, currently in second place, will go top tonight if they win in the Faroe Islands.

The former Germany coach is used to being under pressure. "All international managers are under a lot of pressure - that's normal," he said. "Even Alex Ferguson is under pressure. Now the guy from Chelsea has a lot of pressure. I also have pressure but that's fine."

Vogts has already decided on nine players who will start in the Ullevaal Stadium tonight. Almost all of his experienced players will get a start tonight, including the Wolves' midfielder Colin Cameron, who has been used sparingly by the German so far.

Injuries to Steven Thompson and James McFadden have left Vogts with just one out-and-out striker, Dunfermline's Stephen Crawford, for the match. Vogts yesterday said he would leave it until today to chose from his options, including Crawford, Southampton's Neil McCann, Don Hutchison of West Ham and Celtic's Shaun Maloney, promoted from the Under-21s.

Maloney's manager at Celtic, Martin O'Neill, has every confidence that if the striker is called up he will be a success at this level of competition.

Suspension to Chris Sutton and injury to John Hartson means Maloney has been partnering Henrik Larsson for Celtic's Premier League games so far this season.

O'Neill fully expects him to impress at international level and said: "I'm really pleased, and I'm sure he'll do well. I've no doubts that he has the ability and the technique necessary to go all the way.

"Now he's getting the confidence to go with that, and when he came into the side at the end of last season, I thought he showed terrific maturity."

Maloney opened Celtic's goal-scoring account for the new campaign when he scored the first of five goals against Dundee United on Saturday.

O'Neill added: "I think he's capable of doing very well, and the encouraging thing is that he doesn't get down now if he misses a pass or, as happened on Saturday, if he goes round the keeper and slightly miscues his shot.

Norway are in a similar position to the Scots in their attempt to reach Euro 2004, currently in second place in Group Two and trailing the leaders, Denmark, by two points. Vogts said: "I know our opponents are very strong and have world-class players in John Carew and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

"Norway play 4-4-2, the same as the Faroes although there is a big, big difference between those teams and players.

"Also Germany usually play 4-4-2 at home," he added, "so this is a good game for us."

SCOTLAND (probable 4-4-2): Douglas (Celtic); Dailly (West Ham United), Pressley, Webster (both Heart of Midlothian), Ross (Rangers); Lambert (Celtic), Ferguson (Rangers), Cameron (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Naysmith (Everton); Crawford (Dunfermline Athletic), Hutchison (West Ham United).

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