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Aim is for Scots to make short work of Super Eagles

GORDON Strachan has had plenty on his mind this week, not least locating a missing sporran in time for his daughter Gemma's wedding.

But as well as getting ready for that big day and preparing for Scotland's friendly against Nigeria at Craven Cottage on Wednesday, he found time to tune into Eurosport to watch the national under-17 team reach the last four of the European Championship, before being humbled 5-0 by the Netherlands.

This group of teenagers, under Scot Gemmill and Mark Wotte, have much to be proud of. It was the furthest Scotland have ever progressed at this level, and they outlasted the likes of Belgium, Germany and Switzerland in making it to the semi-finals.

However, Strachan cautioned them against spending too long basking in the achievement rather than using it to spur them on. "When I was playing under-15s with Scotland we drew 4-4 with West Germany and what a game that was," the senior team manager said. "We all thought we were good players, but not everyone made it.

"Some had bad luck, some didn't dedicate themselves to the game. That is where those kids at 16, 17, 18, 19 are. That will decide whether they're going to be a top player or be playing in the First Division in Scotland somewhere in 10 years' time."

A key strand of Strachan's managerial modus operandi is to be to make players feel comfortable, but not enough to put them in a comfort zone. Save for an intense five or six-day stretch immediately ahead of the meeting with Germany in Dortmund on Sunday, September 7, this week in London is the last chance he will have to road test his squad ahead of the start of Euro 2016 qualifying.

Unlike previous managers, the 57-year-old does not have the oft-derided August friendly to fall back on, but nonetheless feels "three sharp working days" in London can me made to count for more that a wearying trip further afield at a time when players tend to switch off in any case.

There are call-ups for Derby County duo Craig Forsyth and Chris Martin, while Aberdeen's Peter Pawlett and Mark Reynolds will also get the chance to gel with the squad.

"This time of year some guys turn up, drink a cup of tea, and watch some football games," Strachan said. "But we need to be working at this. You say to them 'three days of work now and that is you done for the season; that is all we are asking'.

"I don't think we could have done 10 days away somewhere. I have done that myself and there were times when you thought, 'I am desperate to give you more but I am tired, I am injured, I want to go on holiday and I want to see my kids'." While he would have dearly loved to call on the services of Darren Fletcher and Gary Caldwell, so limited is Stachan's time for experiment that it is tempting to suggest he should have the bulk of his line-up mapped out already.

Instead, he knows that variables such as injury and the vagaries of form are sure to alter his thinking between now and the game against Germany. Even the goalkeeping situation seems a weekly struggle between "two No 1s" in Allan McGregor and David Marshall .

"That is for punters and journalists because in reality you have to find out who is playing well at that time, who is in the zone at that time," Strachan said. "We hope to get a group of 30-odd we can pick from so we know no-one is going to let us down in terms of their behaviour, training, selfishness."

Africa Cup of Nations champions Nigeria, with the likes of Celtic's Efe Ambrose, Liverpool's Victor Moses and Fenerbahce striker Emmanuel Emenike in their squad, offer pace and strength that the Scots may be unable to match, not to mention the focus that comes with preparing for a World Cup.

"If we're not as physical as them then we have to move the ball about so those physical challenges aren't there," Strachan said. "We'll stick to what we're good at. We'll try to outnumber people in certain areas, use our tenacity, and our fitness levels."

Strachan was loath to say too much about Germany when they have a World Cup campaign to come but reckoned Scotland have no need to fear them.

"You never know when a best time to play a team is," he said. "It depends on how we are feeling about ourselves. They are a terrific nation in terms of football but I can see no reason why we cannot give them a good game; no reason why we cannot get something."

As for the conclusion of the domestic season, Strachan enjoyed the Scottish Cup final, even if the quality wasn't always at elite level, and had words of praise for his assistant Stuart McCall for his achievement of guiding Motherwell back into second place

"When I saw all those players leaving last summer I thought he was in trouble," Strachan said. "But no, he just comes out for the training, always smiling. Nothing affects him, no matter the result. He has a steely determination and is full of questions, full of enthusiasm for the game. Some people are in it to make a living and some are in it because of ego. But Stuart is in it to make the players round about him better and that goes for his work with the Scotland squad. I am really, really pleased for him because he is a great guy."

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