McLeish: We'll have no fear against Italy

November 17, 2007

Scotland manager Alex McLeish has told his players they should fear no-one as they prepare to face one of the biggest games of their careers at Hampden today.

One more victory stands between them and qualification for Euro 2008 after what has been an incredible qualifying campaign.

World champions Italy are the team they must overcome to make what once seemed an impossible dream a reality.

However, the Scots have proved to be a formidable force on home soil, taking maximum points from all five qualifiers at the national stadium so far, and McLeish has called for one last push.

'I don't think we've ever been scared of anyone at Hampden, and there has been some famous teams here over the years,' he said.

'There is no Italian player who is perfect. It is up to individuals on the day - you can't drip-feed the players tactics from A to Z, they have to go out there and express themselves in any given moment.

'But the Italians are still only human.'

Azzurri boss Roberto Donadoni is expected to opt for a formidable three-pronged attack in the shape of Antonio Di Natale, Luca Toni and Mauro Camoranesi as the Italians attempt to secure their own qualification.

'Everyone knows the Italians' strengths,' said McLeish.

'We don't envisage them changing their system for this game. Donadoni may surprise us, and I don't want to second-guess him, but I think that they feel comfortable in their 4-3-3 system.'

McLeish says his own players are ready for the challenge following a frenzied build-up to the crunch match.

'We have a sense of anticipation,' he said. 'They just want to get going. It is a fantastic game to look forward to. We look upon this as a fantastic challenge and not a threat at all.

'That is why I have urged the players not to fear failure, but to go out and play their hearts out. It would the proudest moment in my managerial career if we can do it.'

McLeish knows expectations are high following a 10-year absence from major finals but, following the death of an Italian football fan last week, called for this match to be put into perspective.

'I think we should remember that this is a football match,' he said. 'What happened last week in Italy was a tragedy. Football is not more important than life itself, and we sympathise with the Italians.

'But Italy have bounced back from events before to go on and win things, and we know that these guys have got strong mentalities. So I don't put much emphasis on that [domestic troubles] at all.'

Meanwhile, McLeish has received messages of support from celebrity well-wishers ahead of this evening's game.

'I received a message from Sir Sean Connery,' he said. 'He's given me some good words which I might use in the dressing-room. But that's for the dressing room. `It'sh a shecret!'