THE days of Scotland gallusly dismissing the potential threat of the opposition have long been washed away on a torrent of underwhelming performances and confidence-sapping results. The notion that there are “no easy games at this level” now rings true for the men’s national team on the back of the humiliating 3-0 loss in Kazakhstan and the hard-fought, narrow win over San Marino that followed. Complacency has left town and might not be back for some time.

Those two results certainly piqued the interest of the Cypriot players who travel to Glasgow this week for Steve Clarke’s maiden outing as Scotland manager. Where once that would have been a journey taken with trepidation – the first one in 1969 ended in an 8-0 defeat - they now do so with fewer reasons to fear.

Having put five goals past San Marino just three days before Scotland could only manage two, and then restricted Belgium to a 2-0 victory that finished with 72 scoreless minutes, Cyprus sit ahead of Scotland in the Euro 2020 Group I table thanks to their superior goal difference.


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Their squad comprises a mixture of domestic-based players with overseas stars including midfielder Grigoris Kastanas who has played for Juventus this season, striker Pieros Sotiriou at Copenhagen and defender Kostantinos Lafis who is with Standard Liege.

That rising strength, combined with Scotland’s recent frailties, has Ally Reynolds worried. A Cypriot resident since leaving Edinburgh with his family as a nine-year old, the Nea Salamina midfielder knows enough about the local talent to realise that it would be a mistake to underestimate them.

“If Scotland take this game for granted then they will lose,” warned the 22 year-old. “It won’t be an easy game at all, even at Hampden.

“The national team here is a lot better than people at home might think. They have a few players doing well abroad at big clubs in strong leagues so it’s a good standard.

“Domestically it’s a bit harder for players to make an impact as there are a lot of foreigners here but most clubs also try to bring through youth players and give them a chance. And the ones that thrive under that pressure and stay in the team tend to be pretty decent.

“The Cyprus national team is benefiting from that. They definitely have players that can hurt Scotland. It just depends on which Scotland turns up on the day.”


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Two of his team-mates – Portuguese-born Renato Margaca and Ioannis Kosti – have been included in the Cyprus squad for Saturday’s match, with Margaca enjoying a bit of sport at Reynolds’ expense following the last international break.

“He came back to training after those matches and was asking me what was going on with Scotland,” he added. “He couldn’t believe that result against Kazakhstan. And then he was winding me up about scoring five against San Marino when Scotland only managed two. I said, “mate, you don’t need to tell me!”

“He’ss 33 now so he’s someone with a lot of experience. He’s been in Cyprus for a decade or so now so he knows the style of play well. He’s also a very powerful runner who gives a lot for the team even off the ball. I’d imagine he will play at Hampden.

“Kosti is a lot younger at just 19 but this has been a bit of a breakthrough season for him and he’s played really well for us when called upon. He’ll probably be a sub against Scotland.

“Of the other domestic-based players, Georgios Efrem, who was at Rangers and Dundee, is a threat, although he hasn’t featured as much for APOEL this season.


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“Nestoras Mitidis plays up front for AEL Limassol and is a handful for defenders as he’s big, strong and quick on the turn, and Giorgis Merkis at APOEL plays at the back and has a lot of experience. They also have Nick Ioannou who’s with APOEL now but was at Man United as a kid.”

Salamina is Reynolds’ fourth club in Cyprus but, despite interest from overseas including back home, he plans on staying put for the next year at least.

“At the moment I’m happy here and have another two years on my contract,” he added. “At the moment I don’t see myself going back to Scotland unless it was for a top six club that suited my style of playing. I don’t want to go to a club that isn’t going to have a lot of the ball. But I’ll stay here for at least another year and see what happens after that.”

And who will be supporting in the big match on Saturday? “Well, I’m still Scottish but I’ve now lived longer in Cyprus than I did growing up at home. So a draw would probably suit me best.”