Stark Warning

11 Aug 2010 121aScotland Under-21 coach Billy Stark insists it would be foolish to underestimate the threat posed by Iceland ahead of the two-leg European Championships play-off. The draw was probably the best outcome for the young Scots, with fans no doubt expecting them to overcome their opponents and end a 15-year absence from the finals. But, as far as Stark is concerned, the facts speak for themselves. Iceland have drafted several full internationals back into the under-21 squad to boost their own chances, including Gylfi Sigurdsson, who signed for Hoffenheim for a reported £7million in the summer.

Stark said: "I don't think underestimation is anywhere in the equation - you would have to be pretty stupid. They have a guy who has just transferred for £7million and we don't have anyone in that category. They have guys playing in the Bundesliga, the Dutch league, the Belgian league and doing particularly well. They have a sense of unity as well and maybe feel they are part of the best generation of Icelandic players that they've had. That gives them a lift and confidence and we have to show the confidence and belief that we have shown in the qualifying campaign. We have done exceptionally well to get to this stage. I think we've got a really good opportunity and I think Iceland feel it's an even better opportunity for them. They will feel they've got the draw they wanted. We can't complain but we certainly won't think about under-estimating them."


Scotland booked their place in the play-offs following a dramatic last-gasp win over Austria to top the group. Stark added: "
It's a big game. We've managed to get a group of players together who have a lot of ability. We have built a team spirit and a work ethic and all the things that are really important to succeed as a team as we have gone through the campaign. Those things are going to be really important to us over there. For Iceland, it's just as big a game. That's reflected in the strength of the squad they have named, that they have forsaken a full international game to try and ensure qualification at under-21 level."

Meanwhile, Stark refused to be drawn on whether he would be tempted by a return to club football now that there is a vacancy at the venue for Monday's second leg, Easter Road. He said: "
We have been talking about how big this game is and I don't have anything in my mind other than trying to get Scotland through to the finals." The first leg takes place in Reykjavik tonight, followed by the return on Monday. Watford youngster Stephen McGinn said: "It's a massive match. I've never been involved in anything like this before and it's an experience myself, and the rest of the boys, are relishing. We put pressure on ourselves to do as well as we can. We will try to win the game and come back with as positive a result as possible."

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