Scotland manager George Burley said 17 points would be their target in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

Speaking as he considered his squad for the friendly against Northen Ireland at Hampden Park next week, the ex-Ipswich and Hearts boss recognized that out of the four countries Scotland face, the Netherlands would be hardest to beat.

"The Dutch are going to be favourites, no doubt about that," Burley said. "Their all-round ability in their squad, their team play is fantastic but you don't win anything on paper. Just because you're favourites doesn't mean you'll win, so we'll certainly not have to fear anybody."

Scotland are in Group 9 which also includes Macedonia, Iceland and Norway. Burley believes 17 points from eight qualifiers would get a ticket to South Africa for the Scots, a path which would involve getting a result out of the qualification double-header against Macedonia and Iceland away next month.

"We'll go into each game - there's only eight games in the group - and we'll be looking for at least 17 points if we're going to qualify and that's got to be our aim," Burley said. "Every international game is difficult, especially away from home.

Never say die
Scotland's first match is away to Macedonia on 6 September. "Macedonia is going to be a tough game," Burley warned. "They showed against England when they drew 0-0 at Wembley that they are an excellent international side. It will be tough, but we've got to try to get our own game going. Our strengths are our teamwork, our passion, our belief and our never-say-die attitude and if we can keep that going we'll certainly be a very difficult team to beat."

After Macedonia, Scotland travel to Iceland for the next match on 10 September. Burley stressed the importance of the Northern Ireland game to the first qualifier. He said: "With Northern Ireland you've got one eye on Macedonia and what the starting line-up is going to be. So it's going to be an important game and hopefully we can show the form we've had in previous games."

Burley reiterated his dream of taking Scotland to their first major finals since the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, and claimed the Tartan Army could make the difference. He said: "That's your vision, that's your aim. When I took over the job that's what really excited me. It's coming closer and the focus is there.

"I've been really excited with the squad of players - they've really got a lot of hunger and passion and have the same beliefs that I have. .

The fans have been tremendous, and they've played a big part in the success of our performances and progress made in the last couple of years

Scotland manager George Burley pays tribute to the Tartan Army

"We need everybody - all the help we can get. We know we've got the Tartan Army right behind us and the support they've shown so far has been absolutely magnificent.

"I don't think there's another country in the world with such passionate fans and if we all work together we can make this vision happen and take the country to South Africa."