Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Carling Nations Cup: Scotland v Wales

Ah, Scottish footballing optimism returns with the faint whiff of a trophy to play for.

Scotland resume their Carling Nations Cup campaign against Wales in Dublin this evening.

A win for Craig Levein's side will set up a title decider against the Republic of Ireland - who thrashed Northern Irelad 5-0 last night - on Sunday.

The Welsh, of course, are not international powerhouses akin to Brazil. But Levein has warned of a tough night ahead.

Well he might.

Scotland haven't beaten Wales since goals from Davie Cooper and Mo Johnston secured a 2-0 win at Hampden all the way back in 1984.

Our last two games against them have been, frankly, woeful. The footballing equivalent of being beaten unconscious by a bunch of damp daffodils.

In 2004 Berti Vogts' Scotland were put to the sword by a Robbie Earnshaw hat-trick in a 4-0 defeat. Our defence, such as it was, held out for all 42 seconds.

In November 2009 it was George Burley's turn to do battle in the valleys. His Scotland team lost 3-0 in a performance so poverty stricken it cost him his job.

Aaron Ramsey did the damage that night. Not even six subsitutes in a 23 minute second half spell were enough to save Scotland. Or mask Burley's unsuitability for the national role.

So Levein is right to be wary.

He's already named his team. A mixture of the tried and the tested and the... Well a mixture of the tried and the tested:

McGregor, Whittaker, G Caldwell, Berra, Crainey, Naismith, Brown, Adam, Morrison, McCormack, Miller

Charlie Adam will be the one between two banks of four. Kenny Miller will do his usual one up shift.

As ever I look at the Gary Caldwell and Christophe Berra partnership and, without being disrespectful, wonder how many people in international football actually respect the centre of that defence.

Not so long ago Craig Brown was never happier than when he was naming a good five or six centre backs in his starting eleven for Scotland. Now there appears a real paucity of talent there.

That's a worry when recent evidence suggests that Wales, so often blunt and dreary, turn into rapier like attacking dervishes when faced with a Scottish defence.

Really though, there are no surprises. Levein might have been denied some players that would otherwise feature but this looks a fairly risk averse selection in a game that others - but clearly not the manager - might have seen as an opportunity for experimenting.

Should be a team capable of beating Wales though. Mind you, it's also a team capable of failing to beat Wales.

Levein has lost a bit of wriggle room by choosing the tried and tested route.

If they are tried and they are tested and ultimately fail then the manager has a trickier job finding an explanation than if a younger, newer team came up short.

Hopefully he doesn't have to do that.

A win would offer a modicum of revenge and set up a nice wee season ending trophy game on Sunday.

C'mon lads...