Scotland 6 Faroe Islands 0: Smith faces tough striking decision after Faroes rout

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The Independent Online

Scotland's biggest win in a competitive match for 37 years leaves them at the summit of Group B this morning but with no illusions of grandeur.

Four strikers made it on to the score sheet, with Kris Boyd netting twice, after the midfielder Darren Fletcher kick-started Scotland's biggest win since a 6-0 friendly victory over Finland in 1976, and their biggest in a match that mattered since beating Cyprus 8-0 at home in a World Cup qualifier in 1969.

Craig Gordon, and his untroubled defence, kept another clean sheet. The team played, for 45 minutes at least, with verve and cohesion. James McFadden and Fletcher both excelled, as did Kenny Miller, whose build-up play merited his goal, albeit from the spot. And on top of all that, late on Saturday, came news that Italy had been held 1-1 at home by Lithuania.

Maybe this section - which also includes France (who host Italy on Wednesday in a rematch of the World Cup final), Georgia and Ukraine - could be negotiable after all. Or rather it offers sustained hope of a campaign of genuine interest to its conclusion.

But the Faroe Islands were poor, among the worst teams Scotland have ever played. To call them a pub team on the weekend's evidence would be to do a disservice to the local boozer. Their adventurous streak peaked with six passes back and forth among their defenders and then a hoofed long ball.

When their coach, Jogvan Martin Olsen, said afterwards, "My team fought much more today than in their first match, [the recent 6-0 home drubbing by Georgia]", one had to wonder quite how abysmal they must have been then.

Scotland's discipline left something to desire, if only in Fletcher and Miller gaining reckless first-half bookings for unnecessary spats with the Faroes' Frodi Benjaminsen. "I was a bit concerned by that aspect," the Scotland coach Walter Smith said afterwards.

And to be hypercritical, Scotland really could have had 10 goals. As Smith said: "It was an excellent performance from us, but we didn't reach that level in the second half as the edge came off the game."

But Smith and his players were happy to acknowledge all this afterwards, which is essential to maintaining level heads, perspective and the wisdom and ability to approach the different challenges ahead in the right way.

"This group consists of teams ranging from the World Cup winners to the nation ranked 169th, so we will be using different teams required for different situations," Smith said.

His biggest decision in the next 48 hours will be which pair to play up front against Lithuania, or perhaps which one man to make a lone striker. He speaks so highly of Miller's all-round contribution, such as the dribble and cutback for Fletcher's opener, that the Celtic man will surely start. But then Boyd and McFadden staked substantial claims against the Faroes.

McFadden drilled home Scotland's second from a ball let loose by Miller. He then elicited the penalty which Boyd converted for 3-0 and was part of a pressuring trio who caused Atli Danielsen to handle for a second penalty, converted, tentatively, under the goalkeeper's body, by Miller. Fletcher set up Boyd for 5-0, but Boyd's composure was key. He scored from a tight angle at close range at the second attempt following an initial save.

Scotland waited 47 minutes to ice the cake, with McFadden crossing to Garry O'Connor, whose tame effort trickled in.

"Ultimately what matters is qualifying for major tournaments," David Weir, the captain, said. That summed it up. Good start. Long way to go yet.

Scotland (4-3-3): Gordon (Hearts); Dailly (West Ham), Weir (Everton), Pressley (Hearts), Naysmith (Everton); Fletcher (Manchester Utd), Hartley (Hearts), Quashie (West Bromwich); McFadden (Everton), Boyd (Rangers), Miller (Celtic). Substitutes used: Teale (Wigan) for Fletcher (h-t); O'Connor (Lokomotiv Moscow) for Miller, (61); Severin (Aberdeen) for Quashie (84).

Faroe Islands (4-5-1): Mikkelsen (B36 Torshavn); Borg (HB Torshavn), Johannesen (TB Tvoroyri), Danielsen (KI Klaksvik), Joensen (HB Torshavn); Johnsson (B68 Toftir), Hansen (Skala), Benjaminsen (B36 Torshavn), R Jacobsen (HB Torshavn), Frederiksberg (Skala); C Jacobsen (NSI Runavik). Substitutes used: Thorleifsson (B36 Torshavn) for Frederiksberg 60; Samuelsen (Keflavik) for Johnsson (76); Nielsen (B36 Torshavn) for R Jacobsen (84).

Referee: Igor Egorov (Russia).

Booked: Scotland Fletcher, Miller; Faroe Islands Borg, Benjaminsen, Frederiksberg, Johannesen.

Man of the match: McFadden.

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