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Monday, January 21, 2008
Croatians announce Scotland friendly

The Scottish Football Association have confirmed Croatia will face Scotland at Hampden on Wednesday, March 26.

The friendly international will be the first match for the next Scotland manager, who is expected to be appointed before the end of January.

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith confirmed the fixture and predicted a strong show of support from the Tartan Army, in Scotland's first match since defeat to Italy ended their Euro 2008 qualifying hopes and prompted Alex McLeish to resign as boss of the national team.

'This will be the new manager's first game in charge,' said Smith.

'I know that our supporters will turn out in big numbers to support him and the team as we enter a bright new era for Scottish football.'

Scotland have played Croatia twice before, both games coming during the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup. The teams drew 1-1 in Zagreb and 0-0 at Hampden.

Croatia will face Germany, Poland and Austria at this summer's Euro 2008 finals, having qualified along with Russia from their tough qualifying group which also included England.

A 3-2 win at Wembley for Slaven Bilic's side on November 23 2007 ended England's chances of reaching the finals.

Smith claims the opposition, who are ranked 10th in the world by FIFA, will present the right sort of test for Scotland.

'We saw in their matches in the Euro qualifiers against England that Croatia has an exciting squad who play great football,' Smith said.

'They have an impressive pedigree on the world stage - finishing third in the 1998 World Cup.

'If we ourselves want to keep on improving, then these are exactly the types of teams that we should be playing.

'Our football is on the up - and we are only a few places below Croatia in the rankings. What we have to do, though, is get back to the situation where we regularly qualify for major championships.

'This is what Croatia do - and this is what we must seek to emulate.

'I firmly believe that playing against better teams shows us the standard that we have to reach. That is why I was so keen to negotiate a friendly against Croatia.

'We have a great squad of players who are improving all the time and we will soon have a new manager in place who we all hope will lead us to the World Cup and beyond.'

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