Alex McLeish demands Scotland show fight in Nations League opener

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Alex McLeish wants Scotland to come out fighting in their Nations League opener against Albania at Hampden Park on Monday night.

The Scots are still recovering from the punishing 4-0 friendly defeat to World Cup semi-finalists Belgium at the national stadium on Friday night,  the biggest home loss in 45 years.

McLeish, who confirmed Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths had recovered from a knock,  is hoping for what he  believes to be a typical Scottish response to adversity in the first Group C1 fixture.

“Mentality is often questioned and Scottish mentality is often questioned,” he said.

“Very often when Scots people are backed into a corner they come out fighting and give their best performances.

“I am not saying that everyone is against us but the players know that to get their names on the international map again they have to be winning these games.

“We have to change the perception from, ‘we will not do it again’ to, ‘we have a great team in the making, and exciting times ahead’ and that is what we are striving for.”

Indeed, McLeish, in his second spell as national team boss, stressed the importance of a change in perception of the country’s football team who have not qualified for the finals of a major competition since the 1998 World Cup in France.

Scotland in action against Brazil at the 1998 World Cup, their last major tournament
Scotland in action against Brazil at the 1998 World Cup, their last major tournament (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The newly-formed UEFA tournament offers an increased chance of reaching the 2020 European Championships  and the former Scotland defender is looking to take advantage.

He said: “I am hearing from people that it is more hope than expectation.

“We have to change that perception and the players are motivated.

“Andy Robertson has been a good leader in his short spell as captain.

“He has rallied the guys round and there will be motivation within the group.

“This is where it starts and it is a great opportunity for us to get our name on the map again, but we know that we have to respect every opponent.”

Albania  beat Israel 1-0 in their Nations League opener on Friday night and McLeish warned against underestimating the visitors.

He said “They had a good victory at home and got off to a flyer so they will be coming with a little bit of confidence.

“They are no mugs. I played against an Albanian team (Dinamo Tirana) in 1983 for Aberdeen in the European Cup Winners’ Cup and they were close games, 0-0 in Tirana and 1-0 at Pittodrie and we went on to win the cup that season. No mugs.

“They have got dangerous players in the team like Taulant Xhaka, the brother of Granit, from Arsenal and Switzerland and there are a lot of players playing in high-level leagues.

Taulant Xhaka in action for Basel
Taulant Xhaka in action for Basel (Adam Davy/PA)

“So it is not as if they are coming from the Albanian league and they don’t have any experience of playing top football, they have.

“We have to be at our very best performance and the guys are aching, bursting to go.

“The bottom line is getting results. It is getting a victory, getting points on the board and we know that we have an opportunity tomorrow night.”

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