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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 10 hours ago
Read
 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jun 30, 2007

'Stir crazy' Scots ready to take on the world

Coach Tommy Wilson claims Scotland's players are desperate to be unleashed on Japan in their first match at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada. The tournament begins today, and tomorrow the brightest pack of Scottish youngsters since the early 1980s take to the field for their Group F opener at the Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. 'I've been to a few of these tournaments as an observer in the past but it's quite a good experience to be here and properly involved,'' Wilson told PA Sport. 'They boys are getting a little stir crazy and they just can't wait to get started.'' Wilson insists comparisons to the team of 1983, which featured a host of future stars, are perfectly fair. That group included the likes of Paul McStay, Brian McClair, Pat Nevin, Dave Bowman, Dave MacPherson and Jim McInally and were European champions at under-19 level a year earlier, before heading to Mexico. The majority of the squad Scotland have taken to Canada this time were in the group who finished runners-up to Spain at last year's European Under-19 Championships in Poland. Wilson, 45, said: 'I remember the 1983 finals well. I was just too old to be involved and by that stage I was an under-21 international. 'It was a good squad who went to Mexico. My former St Mirren team-mate Steve Clarke, who's now at Chelsea, was in the squad. 'They were at the start of their careers and full of ambition. It'll be the same hope for these guys. They do have the same sort of potential. 'They've got to take that and run with it. Hopefully they'll keep their feet on the ground and go on to have successful careers as professionals.'' Wilson is working alongside former Scotland midfielder Archie Gemmill, who leads the coaching team, and they are hoping to be joined by senior national team boss Alex McLeish later in the tournament. McLeish has already pledged to fly out to watch the youngsters if they get past the group stage. 'It was nice of him to put that extra pressure on us!'' said Wilson. 'Alex came and spoke to the players before we left. He told them they need to get through so he could come out.'' If Andy Roxburgh's 1983 squad resembles a `who's who' of future Scotland stars, Ross Mathie's 1987 team reads like a `who's that?' list, yet both reached the quarter-finals. The team which travelled to Chile 20 years ago included Scott Crabbe, Paul Wright and Billy McKinlay, but also an abundance of players who failed to make the grade. 'Those players didn't achieve the same success,'' Wilson recognised. 'It shows nothing is guaranteed for players of this age.'' Japan's 6ft 5in striker Mike Havenaar has been getting plenty of attention in Victoria in the run-up to the game, but in Hibernian's Steven Fletcher the Scots have a frontman who the best defences will struggle to contain. And after the experience in Poland last year, Wilson is hoping Scotland progress deep into the tournament. Matches against Nigeria and Costa Rica come next week, and Wilson sees no reason why the Scots should not reach the knock-out stages, given their unflinching team spirit and relentless work ethic. 'I think they're our 12th and 13th man,'' said Wilson. 'We need them to be there as in all our games, and if they can be we shouldn't be far away. 'There's plenty of quality in the group too and we've got players with excellent technical ability. We don't just rely on hard work, there's more to us than that. 'It's important we don't lose the first match. If you win, you've already got one foot in the second round. 'Any team from the group could go through, but what we did last year in Poland made everyone stand up and pay attention. Look at the line-up for this tournament - France, Germany, England and Holland haven't made it but we're here. 'We won't underestimate Japan though. I was speaking to some Japanese journalists and told them what I thought the team would be. Apparently I got one player wrong but I think we know plenty about them. 'They're a skilful, hard-working team and they really get about you. They've got strengths, just like we've got strengths, and we've got to nullify theirs.''