Scotland boss McLeish eyes Italy scalp

November 11, 2007

Scotland boss Alex McLeish knows facing the world champions is the hardest task in football but he is taking encouragement from Italy's rocky route to the latter stages of the World Cup.

Italy needed an injury-time Francesco Totti goal to beat Australia in Germany last year and drew 1-1 with nine-man USA.

And McLeish is also taking confidence from the fact that Scotland have done what the Italians failed to do in their Euro 2008 qualifying group - beat France.

The Scots must add Italy to the scalp of the World Cup runners-up at Hampden on Saturday to guarantee qualification for the European Championship finals.

And McLeish has found flaws in the Azzurri's recent history.

'I think back to the World Cup and how Australia and USA played against Italy and I take great optimism from both games,' he said.

'There's no doubt Italy are beatable and we are capable of winning.

'France defeated them in this section and we have beaten France, home and away. That also gives us confidence.'

McLeish will warn his players to keep their discipline no matter what tests are put their way.

'We have belief in our ability and will look to start the game positively and with controlled aggression, a true British style,' he said.

'But it is important to keep 11 men on the pitch. If you lose control for a split second then you can lose a man and the last thing we need is to be playing the game with 10 men.

'Whatever antics are going on, on or off the ball, we must not take the bait. We must keep our heads and I'm sure the players will.'

Meanwhile, McLeish could be in line for contract talks with the Scottish Football Association in the aftermath of the game after being linked with jobs at Bolton and Wigan in recent weeks.

McLeish is under contract until 2010 but his impressive start to the Scotland job has won him new admirers - and the SFA are keen to make sure he stays in place.

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith said: 'We will talk about it very soon. It could happen at the board's meeting in December.

'We very much hope Alex stays in place and depending on what happens over the next weeks and months we will certainly be looking at extending his contract further.

'But right now I'm assuming he would be here for the finals if we make it. Alex is under contract and very committed.'