Scotland's 2-1 victory in Lithuania last night has helped the country regain respect at international level according to manager Walter Smith.
The Scots have made a perfect start to UEFA EURO 2008™ Group B qualifying with wins against the Faroe Islands and Lithuania, raising hopes of a first major finals appearance since the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. While Smith is keen to play down expectations in a group containing the combined might of Italy and France, he does believe Scotland are in a position to compete once again with the bigger nations.
"I am not saying the likes of Italy and France are suddenly going to fear us, but I think they will definitely have to show us some respect," said Smith, after stretching Scotland's unbeaten away run to seven matches. "How far that can take us is the imponderable but I hope we are beginning to be respected again for what we have done over the last two years. We don't claim to be among the best teams in the world but I think we are starting to show we will give anyone a difficult match."
The only disappointment was the yellow card collected by Kenny Miller, which sidelines the Celtic FC striker, scorer of Scotland's vital second goal in Kaunas, for next month's encounter with Les Bleus at Hampden Park. "I knew as soon as I got the booking that I was going to miss the France game, which is a bitter blow," said Miller. "When there are games against the likes of France you want to play in them. I can't tell you how gutted I am. But it's been a perfect four days for us."
Scotland's other marksman Christian Dailly, who earned his 63rd cap, summed up the renewed optimism among the players and the hugely supportive Tartan Army who travelled in large numbers to Lithuania. "That's seven away games and we are unbeaten – that is just brilliant," said the West Ham United FC utility man. "Walter has done a great job since he's come in. Everyone has total belief in him and the start we have made has given the whole country a lift."
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