Levein plays down pressure with goal of keeping advantage in Prague

Having required 96 minutes to deal with Liechtenstein, ranked 141st in the world, Scotland do not embark on their two games in the next five days accompanied by a sense of optimism, certainly not with Spain, standing a mere 140 places higher than the last visitors to Hampden, heading for Glasgow next week.

First, though, it is the Czech Republic in Prague tonight and, for all the deserved opprobrium directed at Craig Levein's team for their struggle against Liechtenstein and the preceding goalless draw with Lithuania, there is reason to believe that reaching the play-offs for Euro 2012, and so raising the prospect of a first finals since the 1998 World Cup, remains a realistic goal.

The Czechs suffered an embarrassment of their own in their opening game, but unlike Scotland they could not salvage anything, losing 1-0 to Lithuania, with Milan Baros missing a penalty. It leaves Scotland with a four-point advantage over the Czechs, their likeliest challengers for the runner-up spot, and avoiding defeat tonight would leave them in a position of some promise, regardless of what happens against Spain next week.

"If the Czech Republic don't take three points from this game, they will be in a very difficult position," Levein said yesterday. "This is a game that we don't need to win but the Czech Republic must win. The pressure, for me, is not on Scotland's players, it's on the Czech Republic."

The Scotland manager is ready to abandon the 4-5-1 formation he favoured in Lithuania – one that denied the home side any clear-cut chances but did nothing for Scotland's own creativity – and play two strikers. Kenny Miller, the Rangers front-runner who has scored 10 times already this season as well as the equaliser against Liechtenstein, would be the obvious choice, but Levein has been considering casting a new pairing in Steven Naismith and Jamie Mackie, the latest naturalised Scot. The QPR striker has taken a roundabout route through the lower leagues towards representing his grandfather's country, having played for MK Dons, Exeter and Plymouth but has scored eight times in his new side's flying start to the season.

Brian Flynn will begin his audition for the Wales job in Cardiff tonight with a game his side need to win if they are to have a chance of catching England at the top of Group G. The opening defeat by Montenegro ended John Toshack's tenure and Flynn has been given the game against Bulgaria and the trip to play Switzerland in Basle on Tuesday to put his case for the job.

Another manager under pressure to produce a prompt result is Russia's Dick Advocaat, whose team face Ireland in Dublin. The Irish have begun well with two wins and two more against Russia and Slovakia, who have already beaten Advocaat's men, would install them as strong favourites to win their group. North of the border, Northern Ireland host Italy looking to build on their opening win in Slovenia against a visiting side being refashioned by Cesare Prandelli.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor