By Alex O'Henley in Glasgow
Scotland manager Berti Vogts says qualification for UEFA EURO 2004™ would mean more to him than winning EURO '96™ as the coach of Germany.
However, standing in Scotland's way are a formidable Netherlands side, and Vogts recognises his team must produce a dynamic display at Hampden Park in the first leg of their qualifying play-off if they are to keep alive their hopes of a place in Portugal.
'Biggest match in years'
"This is the biggest match for Scotland in the last four years," Vogts said. "All my players have maybe to play the best match of their lives against one of the strongest sides in Europe. Our target is Portugal and if we get there it will be a bigger success for me than winning EURO '96™ in England."
The German is relying on his players' ability to function as a unit to counteract the individual talents of the Dutch side, but Vogts is confident his team have nothing to fear. "We know the qualities of the Dutch, but we are feeling very confident, especially at home," he said. "The team function is very important in international football and that is what we will apply."
Stephen Pressley, Jackie McNamara and Gavin Rae are all fit after missing Thursday's training session, but Scotland are without midfield duo Colin Cameron and, most damagingly, captain Paul Lambert. In their absence, Vogts looks set to give youth a chance in the shape of James McFadden, while Manchester United FC's Darren Fletcher is in contention for a first start.
'We know their strengths'
"We know all about the strengths and qualities of the Dutch," Vogts added. "Maybe they are not so familiar with our quality and especially the younger players like McFadden and Fletcher. Fletcher is ready for Scotland. He scored the goal against Lithuania that took us to the play-offs, after all."
The Dutch preparations for the play-off have been dominated by the debate as to whether coach Dick Advocaat should play Patrick Kluivert or Ruud van Nistelrooij up front, but after training at Hampden on Friday evening the players were anxious to play down any talk of unrest within the camp.
'Not thinking about losing'
"The mood is good," Giovanni van Bronckhorst told uefa.com. "We have had some problems with the press who are not happy with what we've been doing, but all the players are confident and excited by this game. It would be a huge disappointment for us to lose this tie, but we are not even thinking about that."
It promises to be an emotional return to Glasgow for Advocaat, the former Rangers FC manager whose arrival at Ibrox kick-started the career of Scotland midfield player Barry Ferguson. "I have good memories of this stadium, and I hope that continues," he said. "Ferguson is the key player for Scotland in midfield and we will have to take care of him."
The Dutchman has only one real doubt, but Jaap Stam trained on Friday and is likely to take his place at the heart of the defence. Advocaat was unwilling to elaborate on the Van Nistelrooij situation, saying only: "We respect each other. That's the important thing."
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