Scotland: Craig Levein defiant after draw with Macedonia

 

Craig Levein insists that Scotland's World Cup qualification hopes remain alive despite opening their Group A campaign with two home draws.

"I look at the league table and we are two points off the top after two matches and there's 24 points left to play for," the coach told BBC Scotland after 1-1 draw with Macedonia.

"I am a touch disappointed, but I'm not in any way disheartened.

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I am not downhearted in the slightest. We can play better that and will do in our next match

Craig Levein Scotland coach

"If we had won this game, we would have been joint top."

Nikolce Noveski gave Macedonia the lead after 11 minutes before Kenny Miller equalised just before the break. But it was the team ranked 97th in the world who had the better chances to clinch the three points.

The display has left many of the Tartan Army disgruntled.

But Levein said: "I can handle that and I can understand their frustration, but this game is about taking knocks and bouncing back.

"That's what we will do. The pressure is nothing to what I put on myself. I want to do well for Scotland and I want to get us to a major tournament.

"I am not downhearted in the slightest. We can play better that and will do in our next match. I said at the start of this competition that everybody will take points off each other. We are still hanging in there."

Levein resisted calls from the fans to replace Miller with Jordan Rhodes, whose goals last season helped Huddersfield Town win promotion from League One and won the striker an £8m move to Blackburn Rovers.

"I just have to stay as level as possible and make football-based decisions, not emotional decisions," said the Scotland boss.

Rhodes comes on as a substitute during the second half at Hampden

Rhodes comes on as a substitute during the second half at Hampden

"I thought today the substitutions were decent and the lads who went on for us did well.

"I think Charlie Adam, in particular, made a difference when he went on to the pitch and I thought Jordan did okay when he went on, but it's a tough ask for a young boy to go into this sort of environment and that's why I'm trying to protect him.

"It's not as easy as some people think and it's just a matter of putting him onto the pitch and he is guaranteed to get goals. There's more to it than that.

"Although he did well, I think he's got a wee bit to go."

Levein stressed that Macedonia are a dangerous side who could have beaten the top seeds in their opening fixture instead of suffering a 1-0 defeat.

"We knew after their recent exploits across in Croatia, where they should have got at least a point and possibly won that match, we knew it was going to be extremely difficult," he said.

Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who was named man of the match after several fine saves, gave his full support to Levein.

"Definitely 100%," he said. "He is very good at what he does and everything he does is very good and, for me, that's not an issue whatsoever.

"I don't think the boys started very well at all, but I hear the goal was offside and we need a bit of luck as well and, if you are not playing well, you need the decisions to go your way.

"Even before it started on Saturday, we knew it was going to be difficult as everybody in the group is a decent team, but it's not impossible.

"The boys and the gaffer will not being doing that. Obviously, it would've been better to get two home wins, but this is international football we are playing - there are no mugs and they're still playing at a good level."