Levein dismisses qualifying fears

Craig Levin
Saturday's goalless draw against Serbia means Craig Levein's side are already under pressure. Photo: PA

Craig Levein has described as "nonsense" the notion that Scotland's 2014 World Cup qualification hopes are up for debate after one Group A game.

The consensus following Saturday's goalless draw against Serbia at Hampden was that while the result was not fatal, a hefty blow had been dealt to the Scots' hopes of reaching Brazil.

Consequently, pressure has been heaped on the Scotland boss ahead of tomorrow night's visit of Macedonia in a fixture widely believed to offer a another good chance to rack up three points.

However, Levein, who has called Craig Samson into his squad following concerns over number one keeper Allan McGregor and back-up Matt Gilks, moved to quash any suggestions that it is already win-or-bust for his side.

"It is nonsense to be talking about qualification or non-qualification just now," he said.

"We still have 27 points to play for.

"We are very positive about what we are doing just now.

"It is interesting, if we win and other results go our way we could be top of the group and all of a sudden the point becomes important and who knows, come the end of the tournament it might be the one that makes all the difference.

"Maybe some people don't understand the quality of teams we are playing against.

"We did a lot of work on Serbia, we looked at their strengths and weaknesses and we knew we were in for a tough game on Saturday.

"Tonight, we will look at Macedonia and analyse how they play.

"We have to give them respect, if you look at their recent results they have performed exceptionally well and should have got a point against Croatia the other night.

"We have had our own troubles with Macedonia in the past so this will be a tough match for us, a different type of game but I am looking forward to it.

"We have players who didn't hit peak form at the weekend and they are determined to put that right on Tuesday night."

Levein, speaking at Scotland's Mar Hall training base on the outskirts of Glasgow, joked about the less than complimentary reaction in the media to the new tinted glasses he was wearing in the technical area at the weekend, saying: "More than anything else, what has really annoyed me in the last couple of days has been self-acclaimed experts - I mean what do they know about glasses?"

However, the former Hearts and Dundee United boss was serious when flagging up the media negativity following Saturday's result.

"I have been a little bit annoyed at the hysterical reaction," he said.

"We have played one game and we can go top of the group tomorrow night if things go our way.

"I was reasonably pleased with Saturday. What is important to me is that there is an overwhelming feeling of positivity about our national team.

"If we are spending a lot of time fighting different battles with different people.

"Going on to that pitch and having the whole stadium behind you, everyone in the press behind you and everyone is contributing towards us going to Brazil, I think that is really important.

"If the press, players and supporters are all working together to help us qualify then it is so much easier."

Levein claimed that he had not yet settled on a team for tomorrow and hinted that he will resist the clamour to hand a start to Jordan Rhodes.

The Tartan Army were calling for the 22-year-old Blackburn forward to come on long before he eventually replaced Kenny Miller with around 10 minutes remaining.

Levein admitted that he could "understand the frustration " of the fans but appeared to dampen down any expectation that Rhodes, who earned his £8million move to Ewood Park after a 40-goal season for Huddersfield last season, will lead the line.

"Jordan Rhodes, in time, will be a fantastic striker for Scotland, he will be a hugely valuable player for us," he said.

"But my job is to try to pick the best team for every situation and you have to understand, while Jordan scored a lot of goals in League One, he hasn't even really begun his career in the Championship in England.

"I have guys here who are Premiership players, who are experienced and have been involved in these types of occasions before.

"So I have to have some degree of calmness in this and not get caught up in everything."

Levein assessed his three injury doubts and confirmed St Mirren keeper Samson had joined up with the squad.

He said: "Charlie Adam has a wee problem, Matt Gilks picked up a problem in training yesterday and Allan McGregor has the same thing (groin complaint) but nowhere near as bad as he was. I am hopeful that all three will make it.''

Asked if the Besiktas keeper would require an injection to play, Levein said: "I don't think so and I don't think it is something that we would do, that's more for his club to undertake."