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Scotland On The Up, But The Job Is Far From Over

Craig brings you CaughtOffside’s weekly Scottish Football update.

Scotland remain in the qualification places for Euro 2008 following the recent double-header. They left it late at Hampden in the must-win match against Georgia, with Craig Beattie becoming the hero with an 89th minute winner. Goal machine Kris Boyd had given Scotland the lead – taking him to 5 goals in 6 caps – before ex-Rangers player Shota Arveladze equalised for the Georgians.

Scotland toiled throughout the second half and created few chances, but new boss Alex McLeish made 2 inspired substitutions which won his team the game. The introduction of Scott Brown from the subs bench provided fresh impetus before Beattie came on to fire home the late winner. Unlike those down south, the 51,000 fans were excellent throughout, and Hampden was bouncing at the end.

Scotland line-up: Gordon; Naysmith, Weir, McManus, Alexander; McCulloch, Ferguson, Hartley, Teale (Brown); Boyd (Beattie), Miller (Maloney)

In midweek, they travelled to Bari to face world champions Italy, and while it was a performance full of passion and endeavour, Scotland were undone by 2 Luca Toni headers. Kris Boyd was left out in favour of Scott Brown as McLeish went for extra legs in the middle of the park, but Boyd’s eye for goal could have made a difference, because many crosses were fired into the box and found nobody on the end of them. Italy’s performance was nothing special, and Scotland will fancy their chances of getting something when they come to Hampden, after all they managed a 1-1 draw in the World Cup qualifiers.

Scotland line-up: Gordon; Naysmith, Weir, McManus, Alexander; McCulloch, Ferguson, Hartley, Brown, Teale; Miller

Ukraine have now overtaken Scotland at the top of the table, but you could throw a blanket over the top 4 teams in the so-called Group of Death. Scotland must win the home match against Lithuania and the away matches in the Faroe Islands and Georgia, as well as taking points of the other ‘big’ teams to stand any chance of qualification.

In other news, Celtic have confirmed the signing of 23 year-old Australian Scott McDonald from Motherwell for £700k. McDonald became famous on the last day of the 2004/05 season, scoring twice in the last 2 minutes against Celtic to hand the SPL title to Rangers. This day became known as Helicopter Sunday, a reference to the helicopter which was taking the SPL trophy to the ground of the champions. It will be interesting to see how the Celtic supporters take to the striker, but he certainly has the talent to play for one of the top teams in Scotland.