Fixture Clash To Be Avoided
Updated Monday, 13th September 2010
Scotland and Iceland are due to meet at Under 21 level on the same dates as the A side are playing in EURO2012 qualifying games. Billy Stark wants to change that.
Billy Stark wants to persuade his Icelandic Under 21 counterparts to avoid a clash between Scotland's 'A' side and the world champions Spain after the teams were paired together in the UEFA play-offs. Scotland's Under 21s, who were seeded in the 14-team draw after beating Belarus and Austria to first place in their group, will play Iceland away in the first leg with the return leg provisionally pencilled in for Easter Road. However, the games are scheduled to take place on October 8 and 12, when Craig Levein's Scotland face the Czech Republic and Spain in the EURO2012 qualifiers. Stark is keen to avoid a Tuesday afternoon kick-off for the home leg and hopes to play 24 hours before world champions Spain visit Hampden. Stark said: "There was a general consensus when we talked casually to teams before the draw that Thursday-Monday would be much better, just to play the night before the big teams. Most teams agreed that's what they would want. We've talked to Iceland and they are not considering that by any stretch of the imagination just now but it's obviously something we are trying to do. We want a good performance in the first leg that allows us to dream we can qualify from the second leg at home. So we want to maximise the crowd potential at home."
Stark admitted he was happy to avoid Spain and, to a lesser extent, England but he warned against under-estimating Iceland. The national coach was having lunch with Iceland coach Eyjolfur Sverrisson when his opposite number took a call from a Scottish journalist who told him the Scots would expect to beat a small country like Iceland. Stark said: "That's something you expect but I really can't understand. If people follow European football, I don't know where you get the illusion that we can think we are better than anybody. You only have to look at Iceland's qualifiers. They were top scorers in the campaign. They beat Northern Ireland 6-2 and went to Germany and drew 2-2 and beat them 4-1 at home. So how anyone can think we just have to turn up and beat them is just ridiculous. Most of their players play in European leagues so they are playing to a really good standard. To put it in perspective I'm sure Iceland would be delighted to draw us. That's understandable and that's all we need to use to keep our feet on the ground. Iceland are traditionally really fit and athletic and really strong so if you add that to their goalscoring power, that's quite a mix. Anybody treating them lightly is daft and to balance that, anybody treating us lightly is daft as well."
For his part, Sverrisson is keen to take Iceland to their first appearance in a UEFA Under-21 Championship. He said: "My boys are ready. We are writing a new chapter in Icelandic football and have never gone so far. We are determined to go further and not stop before the finals."
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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