Twelve months and at least six team changes on from the trauma of Toftir, Berti Vogts confronts the Faroe Islands again today as Scotland launch a five-day period that could make or break both their prospects of qualifying for Euro 2004 and Vogts' own future as manager.
Even after the Scots came from 2-0 down to draw with the fishermen, teachers and electricians of a North Atlantic outpost of 46,000 souls, the German's credibility plumbed the depths. Now, despite the probable absence of his captain, Paul Lambert, four points from the Faroes' visit to Hampden Park and Wednesday's reunion with Germany in Dortmund would have his critics looking forward to Portugal next summer.
For public consumption, Vogts has recited the familiar managerial mantra during the build-up to the Faroes: there are no easy games. He knows, however, that a home fixture against a side 38 places below Scotland in the European rankings, at 49th out of 53 countries, is in the must-win category. Amid his warnings yesterday about how obdurate their opponents would be, he occasionally let his guard drop to give a revealing glimpse of his expectations.
One minute Vogts was pointing out that the Faroes lost only 2-1 in Germany and to a late goal in Iceland. The next he replied to a question about the loss of a defensive organiser in Steven Pressley (suspended along with Christian Dailly) by asserting that Scotland were "not playing against a big nation".
Vogts also emphasised the need for the players and the expected 30,000 crowd to balance passion with the patience they showed when Scotland recovered from an early German goal to draw in June. When he was then asked whether he feared any of the Faroese, the tactful answer would have stressed respect rather than fear. "No" came the blunt reply.
Lambert's chances of playing are estimated by Vogts as no more than 50-50. The Celtic midfielder will test his injured ankle this morning but will not even be on the bench unless he is fully fit. If he misses out - and Scotland will need him more in Germany - as few as four of the line-up from the Faroes last September will be in action.
Barry Ferguson, one of the survivors, would don the skipper's armband, with Gavin Rae the probable replacement for Lambert. Another new arrival in England's Premiership, James McFadden, is unlikely to start because of a lack of match fitness - he had played only once for Motherwell before joining Everton. Paul Dickov may return alongside Stevie Crawford up front, with Neil McCann in line to offer width on the left.
Vogts wants his side to play "high speed" in a bid to unhinge the Faroese ploy of pulling nine players between the ball and their Partick Thistle goalkeeper, Jakup Mikkelsen. Any win will keep Scotland's quest alive. A sizeable one would send them to Dortmund in good heart, although a German success in Iceland would, for professional rather than patriotic reasons, complete Vogts' day.
Scotland (4-4-2; probable): Douglas (Celtic); Ross (Rangers), Webster (Hearts), Wilkie (Dundee), Naysmith (Everton); Cameron (Wolves), Rae (Dundee), Ferguson (Blackburn), McCann (Southampton); Crawford (Dunfermline), Dickov (Leicester).
Faroe Islands (4-4-2; probable): Mikkelsen; Johannesen, Hansen, Thorsteinsson, J Jacobsen; R Jacobsen, Benjaminsen, Johnsson, Borg; Petersen, Flotum.
Referee: S Govedarevic (Slovenia).Reuse content