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All or nothing

Must-win encounter for both sides in Cardiff, says Walker

Andy Walker - Andy Walker Posted 8th October 2012 view comments

It's hard to gauge which manager is under more pressure this Friday as Wales and Scotland meet in Cardiff in search of some much-needed points to get their World Cup 2014 qualification campaigns back on track.

Wales boss Chris Coleman has yet to see his side pick up a single point from their opening two matches, losing 2-0 to group favourites Belgium before the embarrassing and humiliating 6-1 defeat in Serbia.

Under pressure: Levein must win in Wales, says Walker

Under pressure: Levein must win in Wales, says Walker

Missing out on another three points to Scotland would end any hope Wales have of heading to Rio de Janeiro in 2014.

At least Craig Levein is off the mark with two points from Scotland's opening two fixtures against Serbia and Macedonia.

But when you consider that both clashes were at Hampden, those results have been viewed as four points dropped rather than two gained by Scotland supporters.

If Steven Fletcher is good enough to be in the squad now, surely he was good enough to be chosen before a ball was kicked in the campaign?

Andy Walker
Quotes of the week

Brazil in 2014 is the Holy Grail for Scotland fans who are desperate to show the world how much colour and energy they can bring to supporting their team at a major tournament.

Make no mistake, this result against Wales will determine whether the Tartan Army will stay behind Levein or turn their anger on him for what they regard as poor man-management on his part.

Levein has done the right thing by recalling Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher to the squad but the timing of the £14million strikers' return is highly debatable.

If Fletcher is good enough to be in the squad now, surely he was good enough to be chosen before a ball was kicked in the campaign?

In my view, Steven Fletcher was extremely immature when he informed an SFA official by text that he didn't want to take part in a 'meaningless' Scotland fixture 18 months ago.

But footballers constantly throw up unexpected challenges for managers to cope with and it beggars belief that someone as experienced as Levein refused to recognise Fletcher's ability as a goalscorer and waited all this time before managing what was a difficult situation.

His goals on a weekly basis in the Premier League since signing for Martin O'Neill's Sunderland continually highlighted an embarrassing stand-off.

Given that Scotland's most experienced frontman, Kenny Miller, is now plying his trade in the MLS and that his best days are behind him, a cutting edge in the last third of the pitch is crucial.

In the summer transfer window Jordan Rhodes moved to Blackburn for £8million following his remarkable goals per game ratio at Huddersfield but he too has been limited to very little game time.

Three points vital

Now, after failing to win their two games at home, Scotland desperately need to pick up all three on their visit to Wales.

Anything less than a victory in Cardiff will mean Brazil is beyond them and my guess is that the Tartan Army will vent their fury on under-fire Levein.

On the plus side for Scotland, they can look forward to the return of captain Darren Fletcher. The Manchester United midfielder has made a welcome return from a career-threatening illness and his influence around the team can inspire the team.

Ideally, Celtic's Scott Brown will also be available but it's worrying that he is taking injections to see him through crucial Champions League ties for the SPL champions.

Whoever takes to the field on Friday night, it's make or break time for Scotland and Wales - and anything less than a victory will turn up the heat.

Comments (1)

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David Mccrone (Queen Of The South fan) says...

Levein should have been sacked after last game. He has hardly won a competitive game and just talks a good game. Would love to see Billy Davis get job because he has done it with every club he has been with and will then start to go back to watch Scotland.

Posted 09:01 12th October 2012

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