euro 2012 news

Mikoliunas braced for hostile reception

September 2, 2010

Lithuania midfielder Saulius Mikoliunas admits he will deserve any abuse that comes his way from Scotland fans if he plays in the Euro 2012 qualifier in Kaunas following his blatant dive when the teams last met.

Mikoliunas, then with Hearts, threw himself to the ground when confronted with Darren Fletcher's outstretched leg during a European Championship qualifier at Hampden in 2007, winning a penalty despite a complete lack of contact.

The spot-kick allowed Lithuania to equalise but his gamesmanship proved to be of little lasting significance to the Scots, who went on to win 3-1. However, the incident proved to be life-changing for Mikoliunas as a two-match UEFA suspension proved to be just the start of some serious consequences for his dive.

Mikoliunas felt his reputation meant he was not awarded the free-kicks he deserved in domestic games and he left for Arsenal Kiev after being jeered by opposition fans during every game.

"I knew it was going to happen," he said. "I know it's not a nice thing when players do that. I just took the criticism, but it made it a bit hard for me to stay in Scotland. I had bad treatment from the referees. I said to myself I needed a change."

Mikoliunas also felt harshly treated by UEFA given the rare nature of his retrospective punishment. "It's not acceptable to dive in all countries, but it happens," he said.

The wide midfielder also claimed there was an element of hypocrisy surrounding the condemnation of his actions after accusing Kenny Miller of handball in the run-up to the striker's goal during the opening qualifier in Kaunas four years ago, which Scotland won 2-1.

"I thought that was also unfair because he scored the second goal. He played the ball with his hand and nobody spoke about that," Mikoliunas said.

Darren Fletcher, meanwhile, has called for Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir to be strong as a result of Mikoliunas' dive.

"I think you're aware of it (diving) in most games, especially in international football," he said. "It's a little bit of a different culture to what we expect or are used to in the British game.

"All you can hope for is that the referee is strong and gets the major decisions right. Things in midfield aren't really a concern but it's the major decisions you hope the referee gets right and is strong on the night. That's all you can ask for as a player."

Scotland team to face Lithuania: McGregor, Hutton, Weir, McManus, Whittaker, Brown, D Fletcher, McCulloch, Robson, Naismith, Miller.