McLeish: Two out of three could still be bad

October 12, 2007

Alex McLeish admits it would be a 'kick below the belt' if Scotland won two of their remaining three games and still failed to qualify for Euro 2008.

The Scots have defied all the odds so far to sit top of Group B heading into the final straight but are keenly aware that another seven points may be required to guarantee a place at next summer's finals in Austria and Switzerland.

That means the heart-breaking scenario of earning a remarkable 27 points from qualifying and still missing out this time remains a possibility as Scotland prepare to face Ukraine, Georgia and Italy in a daunting run-in.

'I don't think it would destroy us as a nation but it would certainly be a kick below the belt, there is no doubt about that,' said McLeish.

'That's life and life isn't about how many times you are knocked down, it's about how many times you get back up. This squad have proved that time and time again.'

Ukraine are first up at Hampden tomorrow and McLeish attempted to ease the pressure on his players by claiming it was not necessarily a must-win game.

'I don't think it's do or die,' he said. 'We can still qualify if we don't win this game, of course we can.'

However, 'do or die' does apply to Ukraine tomorrow following a disappointing qualifying campaign of their own and McLeish added: 'I know they need to get the three points so I would expect them to have a go at us.

'Whether it's open, end-to-end stuff, I don't know. I don't really care. What concerns me is how Scotland play and how we approach it.

'If we were to beat Ukraine tomorrow, they would certainly be out of it. They need to win to keep their hopes alive.'

A 2-0 defeat to Ukraine in Kiev last October was arguably Scotland's toughest game in the campaign so far but McLeish insists confidence is high in his camp ahead of tomorrow's clash with Oleg Blokhin's men.

'Everybody is in good form, in fine fettle and looking forward to it,' he said. 'It's a massive game for us. We are looking to the future.

'We find ourselves in a great position because of past performances and we are entitled to believe we can get another good one.

'You are only as good as your next game and that's the challenge I'll be laying down to the lads for the game against Ukraine.

'They have coped with everything admirably and they have that confidence and belief. The belief is there because of what they have done.

'It's not conceit, it's pure belief because they have gone on the pitch and performed and got these great results.'

McLeish confirmed he was set to reveal his team to the players this afternoon, but will keep everyone else guessing until the final minute.

He said: 'It's just about picking a team and the substitutes now, which is a difficult thing to do because you have to disappoint a lot of people.

'The players will know the team before the last minute this time. I'll probably name it today.

'But I wouldn't like to release anything tactical-wise or team-wise which would give the opposition manager an advantage or a head-start.'