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Scotland manager Levein content with Euro fixture dates

Scotland manager Craig Levein
Craig Levein declared himself content with Scotland's draw

By Alasdair Lamont

Craig Levein left Madrid on Friday afternoon as satisfied as he could have hoped to be with the path Scotland must negotiate to reach Euro 2012.

After a little more than two hours of discussions with the other countries in Group I, agreement was reached over the fixture calendar.

Levein, along with the Scottish Football Association's chief executive and president - Gordon Smith and George Peat - had secured two of their most crucial objectives.

The principal priority was to avoid matches in June 2011 - at the end of the domestic season - and that was achieved.

The Scots were also keen to give themselves an opportunity to take maximum points from their opening two fixtures.

Against Lithuania and Liechtenstein, the two sides ranked below Scotland in Group I, there is a decent chance that too can be achieved, according to Levein.

You can sit and pick holes in it, but the majority of the outcome is relatively pleasing

Craig Levein

"An away game to Lithuania in the past has always proved to be a difficult match," Levein told BBC Scotland immediately after Friday's meeting.

"If I could, I might have taken that as a home match and tried to get two home games to start with, but little compromises had to be made here and there.

"It's a game we're capable of winning and obviously the second game against Liechtenstein is a game we're capable of winning as well, before we go into two hard fixtures - away to the Czech Republic and at home to Spain."

Referring to the avoidance of June matches he added: "I think it's important we play the games on dates which, historically, are better for us.

"June's never been great for us so I'm pleased we managed to avoid the June dates. It's not an ideal draw for me - don't get me wrong - but I'm relatively happy with it."

One of the "non-ideal" elements of the fixture list is an 11-month hiatus between the first four matches and the final four, but Levein was able to look positively on that.

"What it will do is allow me to get the players together, without playing competitive matches, and keep the momentum going if we can," he said.

"You can sit and pick holes in it, but the majority of the outcome is relatively pleasing."

Spain striker Fernando Torres
Spain present Scotland's biggest challenge in Group I

The most ominous fixture is kept for last - the visit to play Spain, currently the world's highest ranked team and, of course, the reigning European champions.

Scotland must hope they do not need any points from that match to secure the play-off place that is surely their most realistic route to Euro 2012.

There is a school of thought that says saving Spain for last could work in the Scots' favour, on the basis the group favourites may well have the group sewn up by then and, therefore, be a less dangerous team.

But that's not the way the Scotland manager is looking at it.

"They've won 35 of their last 36 matches I believe and whenever you play Spain, home or away, then it's going to be a difficult fixture," he stressed.

Regardless, Levein and his cohorts can be well satisfied with their morning's work in the Spanish capital.

Now their attention turns to the friendly against the Czech Republic at the beginning of March.

Levein names his squad for that match on Monday, and the hard work can really begin.

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see also
Scots begin campaign in Lithuania
19 Feb 10 |  Football
Fixtures first test for Levein
18 Feb 10 |  Football
Scotland face Spain in Euro group
07 Feb 10 |  Football

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