Levein excited by Spain draw
New Scotland coach Craig Levein hopes the visit of defending champions Spain to Hampden Park will galvanise the entire country after the two were paired together in the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Levein, who took over from the sacked George Burley just before the new year following three years at Dundee United, saw the European champions pulled out of the hat in Warsaw to face his new team in Group I.
"To draw Spain will capture the Scottish people's imagination," said Levein following the draw, which also resulted in the Scots being pitted against the Czech Republic - who beat them 3-1 in a friendly in May 2008 - Lithuania and Liechtenstein.
"Obviously Spain are the favourites, but there's an opportunity to pick up points against all the teams in the group. There's a lot of research to do, but we've got the time."
Levein, hoping to succeed where a succession of Scottish managers have slipped up, revealed he secretly harboured a desire to play England, but said Spain would do just as nicely in the race for a berth in the finals in Poland and Ukraine.
"I did wonder whether it might be England, but whoever we got from pots one and two was going to be tough," he said. "I'll have time to digest it all over the next few days and then the most important thing will be trying to fix the dates."
March friendly still on
Like England, Levein believes being in one of the smaller groups of five nations may provide for better preparation, with only eight dates to fix up. Meanwhile the scheduled March friendly against the Czechs will still go ahead.
"There's enough distance between then and when we play them again for it not to be a problem," said Levein. "I've got some ideas about how I'd like qualifiers to pan out. We need to go away and formulate a plan."
Levein hopes Scotland can emulate the feats of the UEFA Euro 2008 campaign when they punched above their weight in the same group as France and Italy and came within one match of reaching the finals before a disappointing 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying tournament that led to Burley's dismissal.
"There's a case for saying we raise our game against so-called bigger nations," said Levein. "They don't come any bigger than Spain, but I believe we have better players than recent results might indicate.
"I want to try and develop a really good unit here based on team spirit. That can sometimes more than make up for playing against better players."
Shot across the bow
Liechtenstein coach Hans-Peter Zaugg warned Scotland they could not afford to be complacent.
"If they or Spain take us lightly, we could surprise them," Zaugg said. "But of course if they play normally we have little chance.
"In the last two qualifications we gained a maximum of ten points including a win against Finland and a draw against Latvia. Sometimes it's possible, but in this group it's difficult."