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By ESPN Staff

McLeish: We can cope without Ferguson

Alex McLeish is confident the loss of captain Barry Ferguson will not greatly affect Scotland's hopes of a win over Lithuania on Saturday.

The Rangers midfielder, 29, is suspended for the must-win Euro 2008 qualifier at Hampden, before resuming his duties as skipper four days later in France.

But coach McLeish insisted: 'We have terrific players that can come in and replace Barry.

'We've proved in the past that we can win without Barry and we have proved in the past that we can win without other great players, for instance Darren Fletcher and James McFadden were missing in my early days and we proved we could win.

'Does it mean that you won't win if you lose your captain? The answer to that is an emphatic no.

'But it would be nice to go into every single game, whether now or in the future, with the top players at your disposal, and Ferguson comes into that category.'

Scotland are the only nation to have claimed victory over Group B leaders France in the qualifying campaign so far, with an exhilarating 1-0 win under Walter Smith's stewardship last October.

McLeish believes another triumph in Paris would prove to be an even more memorable result but also warned against allowing the Lithuanians to disrupt the feel-good factor surrounding the national team.

He said: 'If we get a point in France I would only be ecstatic if we take three points from Lithuania - that's a must for us in terms of qualifying and the challenge we are mounting.

'A point in Paris would be terrific - to win the game would eclipse what happened at Hampden.'

McLeish added: 'I think the atmosphere will be just like a home game. The amount of fans I've heard that are travelling to Paris is quite frightening. I know the type of noise 200 or 300 Scots can make never mind 15,000 or 18,000.

'I don't know how many will actually get into the game but we'll certainly expect the Scotland fans to be vociferous and hopefully to such an extent it's like a home game for us.

'France's top players will want to have something to say about that though.'

Scotland host Italy - the nation most likely to stand between McLeish's men and next summer's finals in Austria and Switzerland - in the final Group B qualifying match in November.

Asked about the possibility of the Scots still being in the running at that late stage of the campaign, `Eck' joked: 'We would like to think we could have clinched it by then!'

He added: 'Of course that would be phenomenal. If that game means something, if Scotland are preparing for that game and we know a draw or victory can take us through to the European Championships, we will have come a long way.

'There have been some fantastic Scottish teams in history and we are certainly not the best, but to qualify would probably be the best achievement.'