SCOTLAND NEWS

Burley: Scotland's Norway clash not do-or-die

August 5, 2009

George Burley insists failure to beat Norway will not spell the end of Scotland's World Cup hopes.

George Burley
GettyImagesBurley: Future remains uncertain

Burley faces arguably his most important match in charge next Wednesday when his side travel to Oslo for their latest qualifier.

Scotland currently lie in second place behind runaway Group Nine winners Holland, but have taken just seven points from five games.

With only eight of the nine runners-up reaching the play-offs, Burley's men may need to double their tally in their final three matches to avoid elimination.

The national team boss knows that would mean having to beat Holland next month if Scotland do not return from Norway with three points.

But he said: "We've got three games left and we've got to win two. I don't care which two we win, but we're going to Norway for a win.

"If everything goes well, we can do it. We've got no fears and we won't be there to sit back and try to get a draw or catch them on the break. We'll be nice and positive and hopefully give them problems.''

Burley is confident six or seven points from nine will prove enough in the final analysis.

"If we win two out of three, I feel that we'll finish second and then we've got to look at the groups,'' he said. "I think that having only five teams in the group will help us with getting that eighth position to get into the play-offs, so it's all there for us.

"We know there's a lot of pressure, but we'll be certainly very focused, very committed.

"I've got a good group of players, I've got experience and youth and we showed against Iceland that we're forming a new squad of players that are pushing on and hopefully taking the country to a major championship.''

A major championship finals has now eluded Scotland for 11 years but Burley, who named his 23-man squad for the Norway game yesterday, does not believe there is any more pressure than usual on his side.

"There's always pressure on the national team,'' said Burley, who masterminded April's 2-1 win over Iceland to put Scotland in the driving seat for second spot. "We've got three games left to try to get into the play-offs and that would be a huge bonus for the whole country, so there is a lot of pressure.

"There is a lot of expectation on us, but we're certainly focused. I've got a group of players who - no matter what stage of the season - are going to go over there and show the commitment they did against Iceland and give it a good shot.

"We're confident if we can get a few breaks of the ball, we can get the three points we need to put us in that position to finish second.''

Burley's biggest challenge this week will be getting up to full match fitness players who are still waiting for the Clydesdale Bank Premier League season to begin.

Putting a positive spin on the scheduling of a fixture that has caused him no end of problems, he said: "I think every squad I've had as national coach, we've had seven or eight withdrawals from the game before. We've eliminated that.

"Of course they need games, but you can't change that now. What I've seen of the squad, there are a lot of players looking bright and sharp. In pre-season tournaments, Rangers did very well down south, Celtic did very well, so it's a case of producing that for the big game.

"You can't legislate for how many games they play. What you have to do is get a group together as long as possible, make sure they're fit, lively and then try to build on the Iceland game for a very tough game over in Norway.''