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Strachan prepares to put finishing touches to plans

IT would seem only poor Scotland could be sufficiently cursed to land the World Cup winners in their European Championship qualifying group three times in succession.

Gordon Strachan says nothing has changed for Scotland despite Germany's World Cup triumph. Picture: SNS
Gordon Strachan says nothing has changed for Scotland despite Germany's World Cup triumph. Picture: SNS

After taking on Italy after their triumph in 2006 and Spain following their 2010 success - failing to take a point from either - they will now have to cross swords with Germany, crowned world champions on Sunday, on their way to, hopefully, the Euro 2016 finals in France. As if qualifying for major tournaments in recent times hasn't been difficult enough.

Gordon Strachan smiles at the quirk of fate but believes nothing has changed. The Scotland manager has not long returned from the finals in Brazil where, alongside his role of offering insightful and acerbic analysis from behind ITV's coffee table on Copacabana Beach, he used the work to assess the Germans ahead of the fixture in September. There will be, he admits, added excitement about the new world champions' first competitive match but in terms of the threat they will pose and of Scotland's chances of qualifying, nothing has altered.

After all, Joachim Loew's side would have made for dangerous opposition even if they had failed to make it out of their World Cup group. Becoming champions may raise their profile further but they haven't suddenly become a better team as a result - their capabilities were well known to Strachan.

Scotland are no better or worse off following events in Brazil. Strachan gave short shrift to the possibility that we could somehow model ourselves on the Germans, or that there was another nation whose success we could try to replicate.

"I think we've got our own style," he said. "I can't say 'right lads, we are playing like Chile'. It doesn't suit us. We have to take all the good stuff we've done over the last year and implement one or two other wee things with it. But that's just a bit of tactics - what we are needing are people who are brave on the ball, athletic people who can pass to each other because the more you can pass it to each other, the less chance the other team has of getting the ball. I can easily bring in people who will run about for 90 minutes clattering into people, get the ball back but give it right back to [the opposition]. That's not international football - it's not football full stop.

"Chile were completely different from anybody I'd seen before and it was exciting to watch, but we can't do that. They have worked at that for years and we can't do it in a week. That would be silly. We will stick to what we've been doing. We do feel that the way we set up, we make it difficult for a lot of teams to play against us. Against Nigeria [in the recent friendly draw in London], we tried to take it a wee stage further and work on our forward play a bit more. We were pleased with that and that is the next stage."

Strachan acknowledged that the other teams in Group D - Republic of Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar - will be fighting it out for second and third place. Such pragmatism, however, shouldn't be mistaken for waving a white flag. When Scotland travel to Dortmund on September 7, then welcome the Germans to Hampden one year later, they do so fully believing they can take something from both games.

"A fight for second? We knew that. When was the last time Germany didn't qualify for a championship? It just doesn't happen. But these are not free games. They are games where we can pick up points. Over their qualifying campaigns, the Germans have dropped points. They don't win every game but somehow qualify for every tournament. We want to be a team that is picking up something from Germany, home and away. We want to win.

"We will highlight one or two things [in the Germans' play] but we think our set-up can deal with any sort of style that comes at us. We have to remember how to be brave on the ball, how to trust each other and how to understand when we get it back that we can't just dismiss it and they get the ball again. That's what we are working on and there have been a lot of things we've been happy about. Now we are trying to add to the attacking sense."

There has been consternation among some fans about the price of season tickets for the forthcoming campaign - despite more than 2500 having been sold already - but Strachan bodyswerved the issue with the sort of dexterity that used to leave full-backs on their behinds.

"Since I've been the manager nobody outside the coaching area has come to me and said, 'we need to do this or that,'" he added. "So it's like that with me. There's a different group that gets on with that job. I don't understand it enough to comment on it. I just get on with my job and let people who are more qualified get on with theirs."

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