|Ever cautious, Billy Stark has rated his Scotland Under-21s charges chances of qualifying for the play-offs for the European Championship finals as 50-50 as they prepare to play host to Austria in a win-or-bust game. Scotland, Belarus and Austria are all topping the table on 14 points and Scotland must win at Pittodrie tonight to ensure they stand alone at the top of Group 10. The Austrians are top seeds in the group but, following Friday's 1-1 draw in Belarus, Stark insists there is also plenty of confidence within his squad.
Speaking yesterday, He said: "It's a big, big game. We feel a sense of satisfaction that we've negotiated ourselves into a position where we can qualify. The group of players have done particularly well so far to negotiate the seven games and give ourselves a good chance of qualifying. I would say, the way the game is set up, it's 50-50. Austria are a good side and they've strengthened by bringing in a few players who have played full internationals so they will be a formidable opponent. But we can take confidence from the performances we have had until now and hopefully we can produce another one tomorrow."
With both teams knowing a win is essential, Stark is anticipating a tense night. He said: "It's a wee bit unusual in that both teams need to win and we can't take comfort and say 'well, we feel we need the win but if we draw the game then maybe we can do this or do that' - a draw is not going to be enough for either of us in my view. Austria are away from home and it'll be interesting to see how they tackle the game. I'm sure they're not going to run about gung-ho but they'll recognise that they'll need to threaten our goal. I think that's how they play anyway, to be fair to them. I saw them play away from home in the first game in the championship in Belarus and they were very, very attack-minded. There's nothing to suggest they won't still have that in their armoury so we'll have to show all the things you need to be successful - defend properly and make good use of the ball when we have it."
Stark would love to see his young players come out on top but has told them they must prove they deserve to win the coveted play-off spot. He said: "The atmosphere is great because they are a terrific bunch of boys and they have been throughout. The nature of the squad has changed a bit, one or two have dropped out and one or two have come in as is what happens. But that same momentum has been carried forward in terms of how they've behaved and how they've gone about things. I don't think we could have had one complaint about any aspect of that. It's another factor that makes you feel a burning desire that they get the success that we think they deserve. But football is not like that, sport is not like that. You don't win just because you're a good guy, you have to have the quality required and you have to have the steel and the resilience and the desire and the hunger - all those things. We have to show those things as a team. We have done that until now and we just have to hope we show it tomorrow night."
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