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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 7, 2006

Smith aiming to continue Scotland's grafting

Walter Smith insists only hard work will maintain Scotland's successful start to the European Championship qualifiers.

The Scots are top of Group B - ahead of France on goal difference - after opening wins over the Faroe Islands and Lithuania.

Second-half goals from Christian Dailly and Kenny Miller ensured a spectacular late overhead strike from Darius Miceika counted for little more than a consolation in Kaunas last night.

• Quashie hails Scottish performance

But Scotland face a far stiffer test in their next double-header with the French, who defeated Italy 3-1 in Paris in a re-run of the World Cup final, due at Hampden Park on October 7.

Then, four days later, Smith's team will travel to World Cup quarter-finalists Ukraine, who opened their campaign with a 3-2 win over Georgia.

Now the former Everton and Rangers manager has warned that only a supreme effort from his players will maintain the momentum of Scottish progress.

Smith said: 'We will go into the games next month in good spirit, but we know we will be playing against teams who are way above us in the world rankings.

'There might be small things which are different, but one thing stays constant and that is the fact whoever Scotland play - regardless of their ranking - we have to work extremely hard to get a win.'

He added: 'When you looked before the start of the weekend, you would hope we would get six points.

'If you look at the teams outside of Italy and France in the group, we think we can win those games.

'But we have to put a lot of work into winning those matches.

'As I keep saying, we keep getting a great reaction from the players.'

Smith conceded the the 85th-minute strike by Miceika had left the Scotland nervous.

But he was relieved to have claimed the three points at the St Dariaus and St Gireno Stadium.

Smith said: 'The lad scored a goal to make it a nervous final few minutes for us.

'It was probably a lifetime best for him because it was a fantastic goal.

'We were under a bit of pressure as you would expect at that time in the game.'

Celtic striker Miller scored in both Euro 2008 qualifiers, despite not yet breaking his duck for Celtic following his move from Wolves in the summer.

However, the 26-year-old will not be allowed to continue his fine goalscoring run with the national team against France next month after picking up cautions in both opening matches.

The forward received a yellow card for a clash with Lithuania defender Rolandas Dziaukstas.

But the Scotland manager was simply delighted to see Miller perform in his usual manner for his country.

Smith told BBC Scotland: 'People are always saying to me he is coming through a tough time with his club, but, for Scotland, he has been fantastic.

'His performance against Lithuania was a normal one for him.

'The booking was an unfortunate circumstance but, if you look at the way players are getting booked these days, I think all the countries will lose a number of players in the section.'

  • Quashie hails Scottish performance

    Midfielder Nigel Quashie has warned the rest of European Championship qualifying Group B that Scotland have no fear.

    Walter Smith's team currently top the qualifying group - ahead of France on goal difference - after wins over the Faroe Islands and Lithuania in their opening games.

    The French defeated Italy 3-1 in Paris in a re-run of the World Cup final and will face the Scots at Hampden Park in their next game on October 7.

    But the West Brom player insists Scotland are buoyant after their opening two matches in the group.

    Quashie said: 'We do not have any fear now, we go into games knowing we can win them.

    'The game against France is an opportunity for us to put pressure on the other teams in the group.'

    Scotland will be without striker Kenny Miller for the game against France after the Celtic player received his second yellow card in as many games.

    The 26-year-old also scored his second goal in two games against Lithuania, his close-range drive just after the hour mark adding to Christian Dailly's header a minute after the interval.

    But West Brom player believes the Scotland squad is capable of handling any set-back.

    Quashie said: 'It is a major blow for us.

    'Kenny can play up front on his own, play behind the lead striker or on either side of a three-man attack as he did against the Faroes.

    'He is an excellent player and it is great to see he has his touch back and is back on the scoresheet.

    'But we have the players who can come in and fill gaps. Kris Boyd is banging the goals in and James McFadden and Garry O'Connor are also both excellent strikers.

    'Obviously, we are disappointed in losing Kenny, but we have to get on with it and are capable of doing that.'

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