Young talent offers Vogts best chance of survival

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The Independent Football

Few members of Germany's footballing fraternity derived any satisfaction from this week's international action. Berti Vogts, while astonished to hear of his home country's 5-1 capitulation to Romania, is among the minority for whom Wednesday was not a total wipe-out.

Most of the Scots who were here for the game with Denmark anticipated a similar "gubbing". A 1-0 defeat is hardly a cause for rejoicing, but those who demanded greater pride, quality and discipline after a 4-0 humbling by Wales in the previous away fixture would have to concede that Vogts' team produced them.

Denmark, as befits a side who will face Italy at Euro 2004 in seven weeks, were unarguably superior to Scotland, who failed to qualify. Yet Morten Olsen was picking from a near-full strength squad of stars from Serie A, La Liga, the Bundesliga and the Premiership. Vogts had to cope without an entire team's worth of unavailable players and lost two more, Gary Holt and Colin Cameron, to injury before the second half.

Of far greater importance than the result, however, was the evidence that some of Vogts' "young boys" not only held their own among seasoned internationals, but at times outwitted them. Vogts was not alone in being impressed by Darren Fletcher, the 20-year-old Manchester United midfielder, and James McFadden, 21, a frontrunner with Everton.

The pair combined exquisitely for McFadden to score the goal which beat the Netherlands in the first leg of November's European Championship play-off. Their virtuosity tended to be forgotten after the 6-0 defeat in the return, but Olsen was struck by their performances in the Parken Stadium.

"We're ahead of Scotland right now and it takes time to build a team," the Denmark manager said. "I've followed Berti's progress as Scotland manager and he's got many youngsters. Fletcher and McFadden especially are going to be very important to him."

Fletcher is not the new David Beckham but he is a prodigious talent maturing before our eyes. He showed poise, touch, vision, precision and an eye for goal. How Vogts must relish the prospect of pairing him with his long-incapacitated captain, Barry Ferguson, in the friendlies against Estonia and Trinidad & Tobago in late May.

Ferguson's return would allow Christian Dailly to revert to central defence, where, for all his commitment, Steven Pressley is too error-prone. Jackie McNamara and Gary Naysmith, both missing this week, would walk into Vogts' strongest XI, though Gary Caldwell played with assurance at right-back, as did Paul Gallacher in goal.

On being told Germany's result, Vogts showed interest but no emotion. A press man had heard it was the Germans' worst defeat in 70 years. "You're forgetting England beat them 5-1," the former Germany coach retorted. He did not add, as he might have after renewed speculation about how long he can survive with Scotland, that he could not be blamed for either.

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