Charlie Mulgrew today insisted no-one in Gordon Strachan’s Scotland squad will be fooled by Germany’s defeat by Argentina in this week’s re-run of the World Cup final.
Joachim Low’s side shipped four goals in the opening 50 minutes of the friendly in Dusseldorf, the Argentines threatening to do what the Germans did to their South American neighbours Brazil en route to glory a matter of weeks ago.
Strikes from Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze prevented a night of humiliation, the result appearing to vindicate Low’s assertion that his players might soon fall into a “performance hole” given the expectation now loaded onto their shoulders.
But while admitting he’d seen only the highlights of the game, Mulgrew dismissed any suggestion that perhaps Scotland’s hopes of pulling off what would be regarded as a shock result in Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion on Sunday night had risen ever so slightly.
“It was an interesting result,” conceded the versatile Celtic defender before adding: “I wouldn’t read too much into it. It was a friendly and they remain a world class side.”
That said, however, Mulgrew was adamant Scotland’s preparations for the opening game of their European Championship campaign had been meticulous, an encounter he and his team-mates have been relishing, the chance to pit themselves against those players who had swept all before them in Brazil.
He said: “I don’t think it matters who you are starting against, you just want a positive start and performance and that’s what we are looking for. It would be great to come away with something but we know how difficult it’s going to be but we have trained well, trained hard this week and by the time the game comes round we will be ready. It’s a game we have to relish and hope to get a result.”
Only four players who began against Argentina in the World Cup final were in Low’s starting line-up on Wednesday night, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Benedict Howedes, Toni Kroos and Christoph Kramer with Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira missing while three of Germany’s Brazilian heros, skipper Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose have retired from the international scene.
Again, though, Mulgrew, who is on standby to drop into the left-back berth following the withdrawal of Hull City’s Andy Robertson as he prepares to win his 14th cap, refused to pay too much attention to Low’s team selection, arguing: “They have strength in depth, it doesn’t matter who has retired or who drops out, they have quality to come in and we have to match it.”
It was a point reinforced by Strachan who, unlike Mulgrew, watched the match, the Scotland coach saying: “There was some lovely football, it was a celebration of football but it was a friendly and it will be different on Sunday. It was interesting to see some of the young, new players but I think we will see a lot of the older players in Dortmund.”
Like Low, Strachan will go into the match without some of those he’d have liked to have called upon, most notably Mulgrew’s Celtic team-mate Scott Brown although the former Hibs midfielder’s absence has been compensated by the return to action following a lengthy illness of Manchester United star Darren Fletcher.
And Mulgrew believes Scotland will cope without his club skipper, saying: “Scott’s a leader as well as a good player but we have other players that can fill in and do a good job. We aren’t thinking too much about the negatives, there’s nothing you can do but focus on what you can effect and that’s our performance and getting on with the game.”
The Westfalenstadion as it is still known although the official name is the Signal Iduna Park, boasts a south stand that when packed, as it will be be on Sunday night, holds 25,000 fans, helping create a hugely intimidating atmosphere but one which, Mulgrew insisted, will hold no fears for Strachan’s side.
A veteran of many Champions League nights with Celtic, the 28-year-old said: “I’ve never played there before – but I’ve heard all about it. To me it’s the sort of place you want to play, the sort of place you should enjoy playing in. I honestly can’t say which stadium I’ve found the most intimidating but in the Champions League, every away game seems to generate a good atmosphere.
“In any case our squad is full of guys who have played big games all over the place. Once you get out there you forget what’s going on around you.”
German striker Lucas Podolski was reported as saying after the defeat by Argentina that he expects the Scots to “play dirty,” a claim which clearly left Mulgrew mystified as to what he meant. The former Dundee United, Wolves, Southend and Aberdeen star said: “I don’t know what he means, I can only think something has been lost in translation.
“Does he expect it to be a hard and physical contest? I think that’s the way football is. We’d be disappointed in ourselves if we were not physical and didn’t get in amongst them.
“I’m sure he’s experienced that before and the Germans are well capable of being that themselves. They have it all so the least we can do is get right in there and be competitive.
“We have to stop them playing, to get right in their faces. First and foremost we have to be willing to put the foot in, to work hard and then see what happens.”