Surely there is no set of supporters hungrier for international
football success than the long-suffering fans of Scotland. And
while their senior team has not appeared in a major international
tournament since the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the promising U-20 side
might just be well placed to capture the national imagination at
Two of the starlets that will be focus of these tartan dreams are Celtic midfielders Michael McGlinchey and Ryan Conroy, both of whom played every match during Scotland's stunning run to the final of the UEFA European U-19 Championship in Poland last summer. However, despite the expectations that have focused on the team ahead of their Group F opener against Japan on Sunday, the talented 20-year-old twosome say the team is relaxed and raring to go.
"I don't think we expected this much attention," McGlinchey told FIFA.com at the team's hotel in Victoria. "But, I don't think we're feeling under pressure. Really we're just taking the it all in stride, and we're going to go for it."
'I wouldn't like to play us'
Despite qualifying for the Canadian event after getting past the likes of France, Portugal and Czech Republic, the Scots appear as unfashionable as always, relying on grit and spirit more than technical brilliance. "With us, it's kind of what you see is what you get," admitted left-sided midfielder Conroy. "We chase and press all over the park. It's a kind of style that other teams have trouble with. Let's just say that I wouldn't like to play against us."
"We have great team spirit, and we work together really well," concurred the highly touted McGlinchey, who made his first team debut for the Glasgow side last season. "Personally, I don't think other teams are comfortable against us because we like to get all about them. But, we can compete on the ball as well, and we have players that are good technically."
It's a style that allows the Scots to focus on their own play without being overly worried about their opponents. "We've not really seen Japan," Conroy revealed. "We never even talk about the other team. We're more worried about taking care of ourselves."
Yelled at by a legend
Led by the coaching duo of Scottish hero Archie Gemmill and Rangers youth boss Tommy Wilson, the mood in the camp has been positive despite being nine time zones away from home. "Our training is really a high time," said Conroy after the day's practice. "We have a good laugh, but everyone tries their best and works hard."
At least part of their quite obvious enthusiasm is down to the presence of Gemmill, who played 43 times for the national team and scored the most famous goal in Scottish history - a brilliant mazy run against eventual finalists the Netherlands at Argentina 78.
"Obviously for the players it means a lot," continued Conroy about the sometimes excitable coach. "When he starts shouting, the words mean something to us."
"Have you seen that goal?" laughed McGlinchey. "I've seen that goal it seems like every day of my life. You know, it is special to get yelled at by a Scottish legend."
Playing for a Scottish best
The two are used to high-pressure environments, coming from the Celtic youth system that they both say has prepared them well to face the brightest in Canada. "We get to train with some of the best players in the world," said McGlinchey. "So, I think we've got a wee bit of an advantage since we're not going to be overwhelmed by anything we see here."
In terms of their club futures, both are hoping to use the event to push their way into the Scottish Champions' first team. "Well, that's the goal isn't it?" McGlinchey admitted. "We've played in the reserve team the last few seasons, and we're getting kind of bored of it. We want first team football and this is a great opportunity for us to catch the eye."
And what would make a successful tournament for the desperate Scots? "We'd really like to get to the second round and then hopefully to the quarter-finals because that's the best any Scottish team has ever done in this event," the speedy McGlinchey revealed. "We'd like to equal that and ideally do one better."