european qualifying

Burley calls on players to raise their game against Holland

September 9, 2009

George Burley insists his players have to be fearless against Holland in their crunch World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park.

The Dutch have already booked their passage to South Africa next summer and are looking to make history of their own against Scotland by completing a clean sweep of qualifying wins for the first time.

The Scots, though, go in to the game on a high following the 2-0 win over Macedonia on Saturday but all three points are still probably required against the runaway Group Nine winners if they are to have a chance of a play-off spot.

Burley believes his side will be in the right frame of mind for what he admits is a career highlight for him.

"It is one of the most exciting games of my managerial career, one to look forward to and there is everything to play for,'' the Scotland boss said. "It doesn't come any bigger. I haven't got a clue (how Holland will approach the game) and I'm not really worried. It's about what we do.

"We know the qualities of Holland but we can't fear them. We are in the last game of the group and we are looking to win against one of the top countries in the world. They will want to keep their unbeaten record going.

"But whether we are underdogs or not, it us up to ourselves to be strong, determined and play to the best of our ability with the passion and commitment that we showed on Saturday.''

Burley, however, is sweating over the fitness of his number one keeper Craig Gordon who is struggling with a thigh strain.

The Sunderland keeper was back between the sticks for the visit of Macedonia after recovering from a knee injury and made several crucial saves which left the Scots still in the race for a play-off spot.

David Marshall, who has conceded 11 goals in his three games for Scotland to date, would come in to the side again.

Burley, perhaps ominously, refused to say whether Gordon would have made the game had it been played 24 hours earlier.

"The game is tomorrow so we will assess him tomorrow,'' the former Hearts and Derby boss said. "He played on Saturday and came through it with no problem but he's had a reaction and we will assess him tomorrow.

"You want all your key players to be available. We have 22 players all desperate to play and if Craig was fit it would be a big bonus for us.''

On the question of reinstating Marshall, who conceded four goals in Norway last month, Burley said: "As I say we have a very good squad. If Craig is fit he will play and if not then we will look at somebody else.''

On a more positive note, the Scotland boss confirmed that midfielder Scott Brown, who scored his first goal in dark blue against the Macedonians, has shrugged off an ankle injury.

"Scott is fine,'' Burley said. "He jarred his ankle, he didn't get a knock on it. He wasn't too bad and he will be training this afternoon.''

Burley, however, is wrestling with the dilemma of what to do with Gary Caldwell, who returns after suspension.

Veteran Rangers stopper David Weir was drafted in to the squad for the Macedonia game to cover for the Celtic defender and due to injury to Christophe Berra, Caldwell's Hoops' team-mate Stephen McManus played his first competitive game of the season.

Burley will have to decide whether to drop either Weir or McManus, or accommodate Caldwell in a holding midfield role. However, the Scotland boss was keeping his cards close to his chest.

"The whole squad did magnificently well on Saturday but Wednesday is a different game,'' he said. "It is two games in four days so it's nice to have options.

"I don't see a problem with Davie Weir playing another 90 minutes. But Gary has played well in the campaign so far so it's something that we have to look at.''