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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
Alan Hansen's column
Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Scotland's players celebrate at the final whistle
Scotland just wanted to see a team that could compete - they have got so much more

Scotland were thrown into the so-called "Group Of Death" when the Euro 2008 qualifying draw was announced - fighting for a top-two qualification spot with heavyweights Italy and France.

But now as we enter the closing stages of the race to Switzerland and Austria, Scotland are in dreamland with a real chance of making it.

The recent renaissance is not just a ray of sunshine for Scotland, it is genuine all-out optimism and with good reason.

If Alex McLeish's side can get good results against Ukraine at Hampden Park on Saturday then away to Georgia next Wednesday, then Scotland really can dare to dream about being at Euro 2008 next summer.

What we don't want to happen is for Scotland to come this far, achieve so much, and miss out again in a hard-luck story.

But irrespective of whether the final goal is achieved, it has been a fantastic campaign.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

What Scotland wanted from the qualifiers was to see some sort of progress and team-building. Walter Smith started this work brilliantly and McLeish has carried it on.

Scotland wanted to see a team that could compete and develop for the future, but they have got so much more than that.

They have done the double over France and even when they lost to Italy and Ukraine they played well in those games and had opportunities.

Maybe after Berti Vogts had his unfortunate time in charge, things couldn't go any lower. The change has certainly been remarkable.

Scotland manager Alex McLeish
Alex McLeish could have been on a hiding to nothing when he succeeded Walter Smith - but has not made a wrong move

The Scottish FA has gone back to its roots and heritage with men steeped in the country's football like Smith, and subsequently McLeish, and the players and the whole nation are behind them.

Smith has always been a great manager and he got it right by examining the players available to him and planning his tactics around that, with Alex then doing the same.

I felt Vogts had a certain way of playing which he believed in and tried to get the players to fit in with that - sadly it didn't come off.

McLeish was on a hiding to nothing in some respects when he took over, with people saying the only way was down after Smith had revived Scotland and then left, but Scotland have gone from strength to strength.

He is a great guy who knows his way around football, having played and managed at the highest level. He has said and done the right things at the right time and has built brilliantly on what Smith started.

It's a great time for Scotland at the moment, with the success of the national team and fantastic results for Celtic and Rangers in the Champions League.

And who is to say McLeish's side cannot round it all off by joining the elite in Austria and Switzerland next summer?

The Republic of Ireland, and indeed Northern Ireland, have shown that if you can unite players, have an incredible work-rate, lots of commitment and a togetherness you can get results.

This has been the foundation built by the two managers who have revived Scotland's fortunes and it has worked superbly.

If you are going to win Euro 2008, you will need the real quality to do it, but make no mistake Scotland have got a great chance of qualifying.

It will be a fantastic atmosphere at Hampden Park when Ukraine visit on Saturday. Scotland can definitely get a result there which will put them in good heart for Georgia.

The players work very hard for each other, and in James McFadden they have a player who is capable of producing something special.

Whatever anyone thinks of McFadden, no-one can deny he has got a lot of ability and we have seen it both for Everton and Scotland.

I'm optimistic about Scotland's chances on Saturday. They had their moments in Ukraine and they will be backed by a fiercely partisan crowd in Glasgow.

If they could win on Saturday and then do something similar against Georgia on Wednesday, our hopes really would be sky high.

Like every Scot, the last thing I want is for us to do so much and come so far, only to fail near the end.

But with the grit and determination they have shown so far, there is no reason why that unfortunate fate should befall Scotland.

  • Alan Hansen was talking to Phil McNulty



  • SEE ALSO
    Smith praises successor McLeish
    09 Oct 07 |  Internationals
    Scots hope for Caldwell recovery
    09 Oct 07 |  Internationals
    McLeish sounds Shevchenko warning
    09 Oct 07 |  Internationals
    Dailly makes return for Scotland
    03 Oct 07 |  Internationals
    Weir wary of Ukraine strike duo
    10 Oct 07 |  Internationals
    McFadden goal to be commemorated
    10 Oct 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West


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