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By ESPN Staff

Scots saviour McFadden laughs off pressure

Scotland striker James McFadden knows the hopes of the nation are resting on his shoulders but insists he would have it no other way.

The Everton frontman sees no reason why he should buckle under the pressure despite admitting this weekend's clash with Italy will be the biggest game of his career.

Having grabbed a wonder goal to snatch an unlikely victory over France, the 24-year-old is aware he is the man everyone will be looking to fire Scotland to Euro 2008.

He also admits Scotland 'won't get a better chance' to qualify for a major finals and to shed their reputation as nearly men.

But far from being fazed by the burden of being the nation's saviour, McFadden insists he is used to it.

'I've been a saviour for the last five years!' he laughed. 'It's people's jobs to sell papers so it's not going to affect me.

'I think I have to enjoy it. It will be the biggest game of my career.

'With all the hype surrounding it and the fact that if we win we are going to get to the championships, if I look back on it and I don't enjoy it, then I'll regret it.

'So I'll be doing my best to enjoy the game.

'It's the biggest game of my career but, at the end of the day, it's a game of football.

'There is no point building it up into something where you start to fear the game. I'm looking forward to it and I'll be doing my best to make sure I enjoy it.'

But McFadden admits it has been difficult to escape the hype already surrounding the Italy game.

He added: 'We've read about it in the newspapers and, when you meet people, it's all they talk about.

'Even back in England, it's all they speak about. They say good luck for the game. So I have been aware of it but hopefully we can shut it off and concentrate on the game.'

A win against the Italians would secure qualification for Euro 2008 but McFadden admits he gave Scotland no chance when the draw was made and they were grouped among France, Italy and Ukraine.

He said: 'To be honest, I thought, `Well, I'm only 22, I've got a chance of getting to another one after that'.

'It was an impossible task and we couldn't have imagined in our wildest dreams that we would be going into the last game with a chance of qualifying.

'But the games that we've won haven't been a one-off, we've proved over the course of the campaign that we deserve to be where we are.

'We're in with a chance and everybody is excited about it.'

McFadden insists now is the time for the Scots to finally shed their unwanted reputation as glorious failures.

'We won't get a better chance,' he said. 'Although we are up against the world champions, we are one win away from reaching the finals and now is the time when we need to deliver.

'We've had loads of times in the past with Scotland where we have been dramatic failures and everyone has given us a pat on the back for our effort. But this is the time for us to be congratulated for actually achieving something.

'The players have earned the right for people to look at them and say it's not just a team of battlers, we have good players as well throughout the squad, players who want to play football.

'At times, you need to be ugly in the way you play and we've got that but there are times when you have to play football and we've got players who can do that too.'

Having won eight of their 11 matches so far, McFadden is aware Scotland would probably have qualified by now had they been fortunate enough to avoid football superpowers like France and Italy.

He said: 'It's another game that we have to win but that's just the way it is. If we were in another group, we would have qualified by now.

'But we aren't and we just have to knuckle down and get the last game out of the way and then we can start complaining about how many games we had to win to get there.

'It's not impossible now, it's definitely possible, it's achievable for us.

'At the start of the campaign, even the biggest optimist wouldn't have said we were going to qualify but we are in with a chance now.

'We believe in ourselves and, quite clearly, the whole country does as well.'

Asked who frightens him from Italy's impressive line-up, McFadden joked: 'Every one of them! They've got a lot of great players, players who play at the highest level.'

He added: 'But we have come up against players like that before. Everybody keeps harking back to the France games but we have beaten France home and away so the fact that Italy have world-class players shouldn't faze our players.

'I don't see any pressure being on us. If we don't qualify, it's not going to be the biggest disaster.

'If they don't qualify, they are going to get slaughtered for it. The pressure is on them, they need to qualify.

'We would love to do it, and we've got a great chance of doing it, but it won't be seen as a massive failure if we don't.'