Scotland manager Craig Levein insists his players have no reason to fear their decisive UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against world champions Spain on Tuesday. The Scots moved one point above the Czech Republic into second place in Group I after Craig Mackail-Smith's first goal in his first international start clinched a 1-0 win over Liechtenstein at the Rheinpark Stadium yesterday.
Levein's side travel to Alicante for their final fixture knowing they will clinch a place in the EURO 2012 play-offs if they can match the Czech Republic's result in their match in Lithuania. Taking on a team of Spain's immense talent would normally represent a daunting challenge for Scotland's collection of journeymen, but Vicente del Bosque's side have nothing to play for as they have already qualified as group winners.
Levein believes Scotland's extra motivation could prove the difference, providing they aren't intimidated by Spain's reputation. "Our intention was to move into second place in the table and now we are in the position where the second place is ours to lose," he said. "We are in a position I would have taken at the start of the campaign, where if we win the game we finish second, that's a fact. It is a tall order, we understand that but there is nothing for us to fear, that is the important thing, there is nothing to fear."
"We are playing the world champions of course, but we are in the position where if we win the game we qualify. I believe wholeheartedly in the players and their ability to rise to the challenge. We can't go in the game relying on what happens in Lithuania, we have no influence over that. So it makes complete sense for me to do everything I can to win the game on Tuesday. Of course we recognise it is difficult but we have nothing to fear and I can assure you that the lads will run themselves into the ground attempting to get that second spot."
Levein's only concern is over the fitness of Aston Villa midfielder Barry Bannan, who suffered an Achilles injury against Liechtenstein, and Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam, who also picked up a knock in Vaduz. Steven Naismith had missed three good chances before Brighton striker Mackail-Smith, playing in place of injured Kenny Miller, headed Phil Bardsley's cross over Peter Jehle in the 32nd minute to secure three crucial points.
A repeat of that wasteful finishing would prove fatal against Spain but Levein played down his side's lacking of a cutting edge. "I was pleased with how we played for long spells. What we didn't do is get the second goal which would have made it easier for us," he said. "It is not a concern because we were in positions to score goals and if we keep doing that we will score goals. But you can't compare today's game with the Spain game, they are two different matches.
"We will be ready for the game on Tuesday and we have one thought in mind and that is to win the match. The big plus point is Craig Mackail-Smith getting the goal, that will do his confidence a lot of good. He is a late developer and those types of players really excite me. He has experience in club football and is improving and of course he will get a massive lift after scoring a goal in his competitive debut."