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"Shrink to Fit"


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"Shrink to Fit"

  1. 1. MICHAELSTEWARTINTERNATIONAL EXTRA ON THE NATIONAL MANAGER’S NEXT CHALLENGE AUSTRALIAN pundits have demanded Celtic starlet Tom Rogic starts for them after their side was destroyed in Brazil. The midfielder, below, got the last 15 minutes as the Socceroos were thumped 6-0 by the World Cup hosts in a friendly. F o r m e r Aston Villa and M a n c h e s t e r United keeper Mark Bosnich said: “Why did Rogic only come on for the last 15 minutes when it was done and dusted? “Why not start him and find out what he’s got? “This is a warning to us. There was absolutely nothing to take out of the performance. Nothing.” MIKAEL LUSTIG makes his second trip to Kazakhstan in three weeks tomorrow — with Celtic boss Neil Lennon praying he doesn’t aggravate a double injury. The Hoops defender, below, was carried off in his last club match against Dundee United with an ankle problem. Lustigplayed for Sweden in Ireland on Fri- day night and now makes an exhausting trip to Astana to face Kazakhstan — where Celts lost to Karagandy. But he said: “Against Ireland my ankle felt okay but I had to come off because of a back injury. “The ankle feels fine but my back is stiff.” RANGERS new boy Arnold Peralta will play his first match of the season when he turns out for Honduras in tomorrow’s World Cup clash with Panama. He missed the 2-1 win in Mexico, but this time is expected to get the nod at right-back. P e r a l t a , right, hasn’t been able to play for Gers this term due to registration restrictions on new signings. But he said: “We need to pressure Panama right from the start and show them we are desperate for the three points. “A win would put us one step of the way to the World Cup. Our home games are vital.” SHAUN THE RISE . . . Maloney has been a massive positive for boss Strachan in recent games DEAN SHIELS has been called up for Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against minnows Luxembourg tomorrow. The Rangers ace, below, has been drafted in by boss Michael O’Neill after losing a number of stars. Northern Ireland crashed 4-2 to classy Portugal on Friday night and had Chris Brunt and ex- Ibrox hitman Kyle Lafferty sent off. The pair are suspended for the Luxembourg game, while O’Neill is sweating on the fitness of Jamie Ward and Shane Ferguson. Both were substituted in the second half against Portugal at Windsor Park. Aberdeen frontman Niall McGinn is also nursing an injury and is a doubt. GORDON STRACHAN stands one per cent away from constructing a team that can take us to Euro 2016. Yet as he settles into the build-up to tomorrow’s clash with Macedonia, Strach will know finding that vital margin will be the hardest task he faces as Scotland boss. While doing my UEFA B licence coaching course this week I had the pleasure of listening to sports psychologist Donald MacNaughton, below, and one point he made really resonated with me. He said as you move up the ladder in elite sport the margins between success and failure, progress and standing still become smaller. Strachan is finding out that while the margins may be smaller they are more difficult to negotiate. At the very highest level you’re competing against others who have the same skill set, be it technical, tactical, physical or nowa- days psychological. It is about trying to find the way to squeeze out the extra one per cent that could make all the difference. Some of you may wonder what has this got to do with Strach and the national team? In my eyes it has got every- thing to do with them. Quality After the 2-0 defeat at the hands of the brilliant Belgians this is exactly the situation the boss finds himself in. How does he maximise every tool available to him in his quest to get the country back to a major tournament? International football is the elite level of the sport, and for too long now we have not been even coming close to competing at this level. Last Friday saw us up against arguably the best that Europe has to offer and we were far from outplayed. The manager hit the nail on the head when saying he had five or six players who put in stellar performances. In Russell Martin and Grant Hanley he has two unglamorous guys who he has shown great faith in. The duo played up against Christian Benteke who has been terrorising defences in the Premier League for over a year now, and more than held their own. Hanley’s only mistake against the Belgians was brutally exploited by Everton’s Kevin Mirallas to kill Scotland off. I felt that in midfield Charlie Mulgrew’s shift could not have done anything other than bring a smile to the coaching staff’s faces. He broke up play and got on the ball, he started attacks time after time, throughout the game he showed great composure in tight situations. His Celtic team-mate Scott Brown gave the side some much needed drive from the middle of the park. The other player Strachan must surely have been thinking of when waxing lyrical about perfor- mances, is Shaun Maloney. He continues to go from strength to strength. Now being deployed in his favour- ite position just in behind the striker, Maloney can drop into midfield giving defensive sup- port when needed. He can then step forward providing penetration and the ability to unlock opposition defences. There were positives to take from the game — but when you state that it leaves you wondering if it was so good how come we still lost 2-0? We got into some great positions in the final third, but could not find that quality cross or pass to get the open- ing we craved. The team has a real depth of talent in the wide areas, but we don’t have anyone with blistering pace. James Forrest is the quickest, but he could not get any change out of the impressive Jan Vertonghen. On the other side Robert Snodgrass is never going to drop his shoulder and show a clean pair of heels to the full-back, but he does have a fantastic football brain. The lack of impact from Forrest and Snodgrass meant we did not get the penetration in the wide areas. That would have enabled Leigh Griffiths to come into his own, getting in behind the Belgian defence. When Strachan, below, first took over the reins he had to close the alarming gulf between us and the other countries we were playing against. His first task was to get us back to the stage where we could at least hold our heads up high, proud in the fact we are not a million miles away from them. He has successfully done this, but now the real chall- enge begins. Tomorrow night’s game in Skopje offers us another great opportunity to show how that gap has been closed, and how we can look at these games confidently enough to think we truly can win. We’ve made huge progress and come a long way in a short space of time from the dark days of previous years. Now it’s that extra one per cent that needs to be found to continue the momentum. By MARTIN BLACKBURN CRAIG BELLAMY says there are no plans to build a statue of Gareth Bale in Cardiff — just yet. But the veteran Wales striker hopes his country will make the most of being home to the world’s most expensive footballer. Real Madrid’s new £86million Galactico is hoping to play some part for the Dragons when they tackle Serbia in a World Cup qualifier tomorrow night. Wales got a taste of what lies in store for them in future as they had to beef up security around their hotel in Macedonia this week. And there were sighs of relief all round when two fans who ran on to the pitch in Skopje at half-time in Friday night’s match wanted to hug Bale rather than attack him. Yet ex-Celt Bellamy — once the biggest star in Welsh football himself — believes it is some- thing the country must embrace and try to make the most of. The former Liverpool ace said: “It’s new for us. We have had Ryan Giggs, don’t get me wrong, but this is a little bit different. “It’s a fantastic time for us to market our country and tell everyone about the good things we have. “It’s not every day that you can boast the world’s most expensive player as one of yours. As a squad we’ll try to look after him. “He’s a great lad. I’m not saying they will erect a statue of him in Cardiff straightaway but we are learning as we go. “It’s brilliant because of the recognition our nation will get.” Wales bowed out of contention for the World Cup at the weekend but Bellamy, 34, believes Bale, 24, will play in a major championships. The Cardiff firebrand, who has 75 caps, also hinted he may hang up his boots at the end of the season. When asked if he had one last qualifying campaign in him, Bellamy said: “I don’t think that’s going to be possible. I don’t. “I really want this group to succeed. But don’t forget, it’s a two-year period to qualify. “If I start the next campaign, I would be robbing someone else of two matches, four matches . . . vital experience. That’s the way I’m looking at it. “My mood does change, I could change what I’m thinking. But the way I’m feeling now, it could be my last season in football. I have so much to look forward to after football.” Bellamy’s domestic situation is also an issue following a recent marriage break-up, and he wants to spend as much time as possible with his three children. He added: “I’m a single parent now and I’m having such a battle to see my kids on a daily basis. “Then, being away for 10 days on Wales duty, it’s so hard.” MARCLONGS FOR CHANGEMARC WILSON has urged the Republic of Ireland to abandon the long-ball approach in a desperate bid to revive their World Cup qualifying campaign. Giovanni Trapattoni’s side launched an aerial blitz against Sweden on Friday but lost 2-1. And Stoke full-back Wilson said: “We need to play through the middle a bit more and pass the ball to create good chances.” When suggested to Wilson that the long ball did not help, he said: “No, it doesn’t. “Plus, there are new faces coming in every day and we haven’t had time as a group. “But it’s still no excuse. The other night wasn’t good enough.” Crocked Lustig’s a Kaz been By JOHN SHIELDS Aussies’ start plea for Rogic Peralta: I will knock my Pan in SWEDE ’N SOUR . . . Ibrahimovic beats Wilson Lux in as Dean gets a cap call AT HEART OF HIS NATION . . . Gareth Bale is now Wales’ main man DONE . . . Bellamy 4 Monday, September 9, 2013