CHRISTOPHE BERRA admits that missing out on his daughter’s first few days has been a huge sacrifice to make.
But the former Hearts defender is hoping that his decision will be rewarded with a win over Macedonia in round two of Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers tomorrow night.
The 27-year-old became a father for the first time last week after his fiancée gave birth to daughter Savannah on Thursday. After spending just a few hours with his new family, Berra travelled north to join up with the rest of the Scotland squad and played the full 90 minutes of the 0-0 draw with Serbia in the opening game of Group A on Saturday.
He admitted that the Scots had been disappointed not to convert any of the chances that they created against Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side, but he insisted that the Dark Blues could not be too downbeat about the result.
And he’s looking ahead to tomorrow night as the perfect way to kick-start their campaign.
Berra said: “It has been a hectic week for me and just to get out there, play the 90 minutes and keep a clean sheet, was the main thing for me. Obviously I would have preferred that we won the game, but football is just not that plain sailing. Serbia are no mugs, though, they have got top players in their side and you have got to try to take the positives from the game.
“Everyone was disappointed not to win, of course, because we thought that we had the better chances, but there are a lot of positives for us.
“If you look back maybe a year, a year and a half ago, maybe we wouldn’t have been as positive, but I think that we have shown that we can compete with the big boys and we have got to make sure that we keep going in the right direction.”
He can’t wait to get back home to his new baby, but knows that there is a lot of business to take care of before then.
And he continued: “I love playing for my country, but obviously I am dying to go home and see the little one but sometimes you have got to make these sacrifices and it will be worth it in the long run.
“I know that I have got many years ahead of spending good time with her in the future.
“I’m just looking forward to the game on Tuesday night, a victory on the board, and then being able to head home to see her and my fiancée.
“Luckily she has given me her blessing to come away on international duty.
“My parents and her parents are down there at the moment, so I know that they’re both in safe hands.
“As long as she gets herself recovered and we can both look forward to the months ahead, that’s the main thing.”
Craig Levein’s side now go into the game against Macedonia tomorrow – only their second match of the Group A qualifying campaign – already playing catch-up after rivals and top seeds Belgium and Croatia both recorded wins.
However, Berra insisted that there is still plenty of time to make up for lost opportunities.
He added: “No matter whether you play at club level or international level, there is always pressure on you to get victories.
“We want to win tomorrow night – I don’t think we’re at the stage where we say we need to win – but if we do then it would put us in a good position.
“If we can put in a good performance then I think we are in with a good chance of doing that.
“A couple of years ago we would probably have been happy with a draw, but now we want to win these games, so I think that proves we are going in the right direction.”
While it is difficult to shake the feeling that Scotland’s campaign may be over before it has even begun in earnest, there was one genuine positive to take from the match in the performance of Paul Dixon.
The 25-year-old Huddersfield Town defender was brought in at left-back for his first cap and was voted man-of-the-match after a solid 90 minutes.
And Berra was impressed by the new addition to Craig Levein’s squad.
“He got the man of the match award on Saturday,” Berra said, “and I thought that he was a top man – it was well deserved.
“He defended really well and didn’t let his man get past him and when he got forward he put some dangerous crosses in.
“It was his first appearance for Scotland and I don’t think he could have asked for a better debut.”
On the domestic front, Berra handed in a transfer request at Wolves last month, which was accepted by the English Championship side.
There was rumoured to have been interest in the player from Southampton, Stoke and Leicester, but deadline day came and went without a move being finalised.
But, while his future at club level is still hanging in the balance, Berra is, for now, focusing on his Scotland duties.
The last time Scotland played in a major finals was back in 1998 and Berra was just 13 years old.
He would love to be part of the side which brings that drought to an end and reckons that the Tartan Army could add a bit of colour to the carnival in Rio 2014.
And, with his new family clearly still on his mind, he would love to have stories to tell future generations about.
He continued: “It would be great if we could qualify for the World Cup in Rio. Just for the experience, for the fans to be going over there to support us, the atmosphere.
“It would be unbelievable to be involved in something like that and something that you can look back on in years to come and tell your children or your grandchildren about.
“It’s a hard thing to do, though, especially when we’re such a small nation – that is something that we have got to remember, too.
“We know that we have got to be in top form in all of our games to qualify and if we could do that it would be a great achievement.”