Win gives Burley hope of success in Dutch test

Scotland 2 Macedonia 0
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The Independent Football

Scotland have beaten the Netherlands at home before, albeit just once in a competitive game. That was in 2003 in the play-off for Euro 2004. James McFadden scored the only goal. The Scots then got spanked 6-0 in the second leg in Amsterdam but that does not matter. What matters is they know they can bag improbable results.

Saturday's victory over Macedonia was necessary to allow thoughts of beating the Dutch even to be relevant. The visitors were far superior in the first half, but something shook the timid Scots at the interval. The upshot was goals from Scott Brown – a header – and McFadden – a run and shot.

And so it comes to pass, pretty much as everyone always thought it would in Group Nine. The Dutch have run away with the group and the Scots are sitting pretty to finish second. A point on Wednesday will seal that slot.

What was not envisaged was the dross of so much of the campaign, or that Scotland would amass so few points, 10 to date. That tally leaves George Burley's team needing a win in midweek to retain a reasonable chance of a play-off place.

"We have a belief that we can take the three points, even though we know that Holland are a fantastic team," Burley said. "We will have 50,000 fans behind us and we are determined not to let them down. We won't be pensive about it."

Burley will tinker. Steven Whittaker, a sub on Saturday, did enough as a progressive left-back to retain that slot. Brown took a knock but he is as tough as he is daft and will play.

McFadden will almost certainly be unavailable after receiving an oddly harsh booking for an offence yet to become clear. It seems possible he was the victim of mistaken identity but any appeal has little chance of bearing fruit in time to make amends.



Burley could do worse than start instead with Shaun Maloney, a striker with adaptability, not unlike McFadden. That only leaves the question of whether Gary Caldwell will return to the defence after a ban.

The maths of qualification are complicated but all that matters is that Scotland win on Wednesday. There are mathematical scenarios where a draw will suffice for Scotland, but those, like Tartan Army hopes, will keep another few days.

Scotland (4-3-3): Gordon (Sunderland); Hutton (Tottenham), Weir (Rangers), McManus (Celtic), Davidson (Preston); Brown (Celtic), Alexander (Burnley), D Fletcher (Man Utd); S Fletcher (Burnley), Miller (Rangers), McFadden (Birmingham). Substitutes used: Whittaker (Rangers) for Davidson, 13; Maloney (Celtic) for S Fletcher, 68; Hartley (Bristol City) for Brown, 73.

Macdeonia (4-3-3): Nikoloski; Noveski, Sedloski, Mitreski, Popov; Georgievski, Shumulikoski, Despotovski; Stojkov, Pandev, Naumoski. Substitutes used: Tasevski for Naumoski, 65; Grozdanoski for Georgievski, 69; Ibraimi for Sojkov, 79.

Referee: W Stark (Germany).

Bookings: Scotland: Brown, McFadden. Macedonia: Mitreski, Despotovski.

Attendance: 50,240.

Man of the match: Brown.

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