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Battle Lines Drawn
Published : 29 May 2011 10:22:38
Scotland are keen to lift the Nations Cup and have to overcome a lively Republic of Ireland tonight Craig Levein is happy with the progress his team has made since he took over and hopes another win in the Carling Nations Cup will mark the next stage in their development. The Republic Of Ireland sit on top of the table by virtue of a better goal difference and the sides meet tonight at the Aviva Stadium. While the number of fans in attendance and the timing of the competition has come in for criticism, Levein has been glad of the opportunity to work with his players before the next round of EURO2012 group games comes around. he would love to have something tangible to show for the progress made to prove the national team is still on the right track. Levein said: "I've enjoyed the tournament because I've had the opportunity to get the players together and work with them and get some positive experiences. So, from that point of view, I'm pleased with the way the tournament has gone so far. We are intending to try to win the game and win the trophy. I feel, as a group of players, the lads are improving, not just in a team sense. But if you go through the group of players who are here with Scotland, you will see players who, individually, have had very successful seasons. I'm grateful to be able to take advantage of those guys' improvement. That's why I believe that the international team is slowly inching forward and I see far more improvement ahead." Scotland head into the deciding game boosted by a 3-1 win over Wales, after fighting back from a Rob Earnshaw goal to win the game thanks to goals from James Morrison, Kenny Miller and Christophe Berra. Levein said: "All credit to them. I've got players who are high on confidence because of their individual performances throughout last season. When you have players who are confident, then my job becomes an awful lot easier. A lot of people spoke about the difference between the first half and the second half in the game the other night but I didn't feel there was a huge difference between the two, except that we didn't capitalise on the goalscoring opportunities that we had. The one thing about the players we've got, every time they take to the field they do their utmost to help each other and try to win matches. That, again, makes my job a little bit easier." Miller - who is captain in the absence of Darren Fletcher who was involved in the Champions League final last night - could have had a couple of goals on Wednesday before finally getting his name to the scoresheet. However, despite trailing Wales by half-time, the striker claims Levein had few complaints in his half-time team talk following a decent display. He said: "The gaffer was pretty pleased with how things went in the first half. There was a mistake and we let them in but I felt we still created a lot of chances as well in the first half. In the second half, we took them and that was the main difference. When you get the goals and you get your nose in front in a game, you start to relax a bit more. Towards the end, we created another few good chances." Republic striker Robbie Keane is expecting stiffer competition tonight that experienced in Tuesday's 5-0 win over Northern Ireland. He said: Keane said: "They have players coming through and players established in the Premier League. It is going to be tough for us. No disrespect to Northern Ireland, I am sure it will be a bigger test. I watched their game (against Wales) and I was very impressed with them.'' Keane, already Ireland's record goalscorer, scored another brace on Tuesday to take his international goal tally to 48. He has not set his sights set on a half-century. He said: "If you'd asked me a few years ago when I started off, I wouldn't even have dreamed of scoring 50 goals. My aim was to beat Niall Quinn's record (of 21). I did that and I'm lucky enough the goals have kept coming. If it does happen it will be a very proud moment, obviously I'd be delighted.'' Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has made four changes to his side with Damien Delaney, Kevin Foley, Seamus Coleman and Keith Treacy out of his side. Defender Darren O'Dea is back from an ankle injury while Birmingham's Keith Fahey, who joined up with the squad after the Northern Ireland game, slots into midfield. Wolves winger Stephen Hunt comes off the bench to play on the left while Portsmouth's Liam Lawrence replaces Coleman on the right. Keane again partners Simon Cox up front after the West Brom forward's goalscoring debut against Northern Ireland. Wolves utility man Stephen Ward is also retained after scoring in his first appearance.