|The burden of overly-high expectations was the undoing of England in the World Cup. So says Scotland manager Craig Levein after watching our neighbours struggle through Group C with one win in three games and as Fabio Capello's men were beaten 4-1 in their last-16 game against, the team that has been their bete-noir for so many years, Germany. Speculation that the Italian would lose his job in the wake of their early exit from South Africa was only ended last Friday when it was announced, after a FA board meeting, that Capello would stay in charge for the next two years. Levein, preparing for the friendly away game against Sweden next month, claims too much is expected from the England players - which makes it difficult for the manager.
Levein said: "They (England) are under an enormous amount of pressure. I think the expectation levels of England are way above what they should be. I said before the tournament that if England got to the semi-finals it would be a terrific achievement. They didn't quite manage it. I'm not one of those people who looks at it and revels in them going out. I think it would be good for everybody if they had progressed further but it's a difficult job, the England manager's job, as you see."
Levein is well aware that his primary objective is simply to guide Scotland into a major tournament for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France. His only game since being appointed last December was a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic in a friendly at Hampden in March. The game in Sweden will be the last game before the start of the EURO2010 qualifying group games. Scotland start off in Lithuania on 3 September, followed by welcoming Liechtenstein to Hampden four days later. This is the easy bit before we play a double-header against the Czech Republic and, World Cup semi-finalists, Spain in October. The former Dundee United and Hearts boss, who was capped 16 times for Scotland, is confident he can break the mould and take the national team to the 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.
He said: "I would love to be involved. I was fortunate enough to play in the World Cup in 1990 and it was such a marvellous experience so I would love to have the opportunity to take Scotland to a World Cup or more imminently, a European Championship. We have a good group of players and have probably underperformed a bit in recent years. But I don't kid on, I don't say it's going to be easy. We had a good result against the Czech Republic and if we get a bit of momentum going anything is possible. But I will be doing my best to get us to Poland and the Ukraine."
Levein will be steping up his own preparations over the next few weeks. He said: "I've been really busy. I've been to Spain, the United States, Austria, Lithuania and Italy, I've been all over the place and I'm away to Liechtenstein in a couple of weeks' time. I've been watching games and getting to grips with our opponents. So I've been really busy. Just about everybody is back at pre-season training now so I expect that maybe 10 days from now, I will be on the road down south watching games, having a look at the players and seeing what kind of form they are in before I name my squad."