FOOTBALL: The World Cup qualifying campaign might be just one game old, but Scotland boss Craig Levein is already fighting against a tide of criticism following Saturday’s goalless draw with Serbia at Hampden Park.
Boos from the home fans met the stalemate, with Levein’s detractors taking issue with everything from the manager’s cautious 4-1-4-1 formation to his failure to select Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher. Rather harshly, a new pair of shades he sported for the game even attracted stick from some fans.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of Levein’s approach, the former Dundee United manager finds himself under huge pressure before tomorrow night's Group A match with Macedonia.
Levein, who has managed the national team since 2009, has been taken aback by the criticism from some quarters.
“I’m a little bit annoyed about the hysterical reaction. We have played one game and we can go top of the group if things go our way,” he told a press conference today.
His bemusement is understandable, though a group comprising the likes of Belgium, Croatia and Wales surely dictates that Scotland need to win the majority of their home games if they are to end an absence from major tournaments that dates back to World Cup 1998.
Hardly a favourite among the Tartan Army himself, striker Kenny Miller has sought to play down expectations, saying that Scotland do not necessarily need to beat Macedonia to qualify for Brazil 2014.
Hardly the kind of pep talk to assuage the fears of supporters, many of whom had expected two home wins from this double-header.
“If you get a point and win your next eight, you’re top of the group. It’s as simple as that,” said Miller, bringing to mind an old phrase about uncles and aunties.
“We will be going out to win the game, definitely. It’s a home game and I think when you start with two home games, you would be very disappointed if you didn’t at least win one of them. We drew on Saturday so that leaves Tuesday night and we will be going out to try to get the three points.”
Levein has three injury concerns for the match with Macedonia.
He said: “Charlie Adam has a wee problem, Matt Gilks picked up a problem in training yesterday and Allan McGregor has the same thing but nowhere near as bad as he was. I am hopeful that all three will make it.”
Failure to beat a team ranked 97th in the world tomorrow night will add to Levein’s woes no end.