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Levein looks to keep Scotland in the hunt

Published: Wednesday 31 August 2011, 14.55CET
Out to achieve "the managerial highlight of his career" by guiding Scotland to UEFA EURO 2012, Craig Levein is for now looking no further than three points against the Czech Republic on Saturday.
by Alex O’Henley
from Glasgow
Levein looks to keep Scotland in the hunt
Craig Levein knows the importance of his Scotland side's two upcoming home fixtures ©Getty Images
 
Published: Wednesday 31 August 2011, 14.55CET

Levein looks to keep Scotland in the hunt

Out to achieve "the managerial highlight of his career" by guiding Scotland to UEFA EURO 2012, Craig Levein is for now looking no further than three points against the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Out of competitive action for almost 11 months, Scotland resume their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign chomping at the bit to stay in the hunt for second place in Group I.

My objective is to get to a major final with Scotland and that would then become the managerial highlight of my career
Craig Levein

Craig Levein's team go into Saturday's game at Hampden Park lying third in the section, five points behind opponents the Czech Republic. However, with a game in hand on everyone in the group and another home fixture against Lithuania to follow on Tuesday, Scotland know that the runners-up spot – with Spain seemingly out on front in their own – is not beyond them.

"We really have to win the next three matches [including away to Liechtenstein on 8 October] to have a chance of qualifying for the play-offs," Levein told UEFA.com. "My objective is to get to a major final with Scotland and that would then become the managerial highlight of my career. This game [against the Czech Republic] is the biggest of my Scotland managerial career, so I'm looking forward to it very much."

Levein's options have been boosted by the return of captain Darren Fletcher following the Manchester United FC midfielder's recovery from a long-term stomach virus. The prospect of a home win has been further enhanced by the absence of Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech, who misses out with a knee injury.

"Darren has had this illness for a fair amount of time but he's fit and ready to play, so to get a player of his stature back for us is a real plus," added Levein. "Čech is one of the top, if not the best goalkeeper in the world, so we have to do enough to test whoever takes his place. That's the only way we'll find out if he's been missed or not. It's a blow for the Czech Republic, but it remains to be seen if we can take advantage."

After Scottish clubs struggled in the UEFA Europa League play-offs, the onus is now on the national side to rouse spirits. With 12 of his 25-man squad plying their trade in the Premier League, Levein is confident in the players at his disposal.

"We have a lot of players who are playing at the top of their game at the moment," he said. "They are playing in the top leagues against international players every week and that leads to improvement. If you play with the best and against the best you improve. There's no doubt because the players are improving the team's improving.

"There are a lot of positives about the national squad just now, but ultimately it comes down to what happens in 90 minutes on the 3 September. It's a game we have to win."

Last updated: 03/09/11 13.05CET

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