Scotland team yet to reach its peak - Kevin Gallacher

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
Darren Fletcher (right) and Gary Caldwell (centre) applaud the travelling Scotland fans
Darren Fletcher is one of the Scottish players reaching his peak

Former Scotland striker Kevin Gallacher believes the blend and momentum of the current side means it has a good chance of reaching the 2014 World Cup.

The Scots lost 3-1 to Spain to end their hopes of qualifying for the European Championship next summer.

But Gallacher thinks the team will reach its peak in the next two years.

"They have some young players coming through who have shown they can hold their own at international level," he told BBC Sport.

"[Scotland manager] Craig Levein is working very hard with the side.

"Barry Bannan and David Goodwillie have come through from the Under-21s, and Craig Mackail-Smith has come from nowhere and got into the squad so he has shown he can handle international football.

"That's all plusses for Scotland and it's been a lot time since we have had that."

Scotland missed out on qualification for the finals in Poland and Ukraine after they were beaten by the world champions in Alicante.

Spain qualified top of Group I while the Czech Republic reached the play-offs after they beat Lithuania.

Levein's side had a chance to reach the Euro 2012 finals before they faced Vicente del Bosque's team, but conceding a 90th-minute penalty to draw 2-2 with the Czechs at Hampden in September made that task an uphill struggle.

Even so, former Scotland boss Alex McLeish thinks that the team have benefited from players competing at a higher level as they aim to qualify for their first major championship since 1998.

"I think the Bosman ruling hurt the smaller countries but in recent years we've got players now playing in the Premier League, whereas three or four years ago we were taking a lot of players from the Championship," said the Aston Villa boss in his role as a BBC TV pundit on Tuesday evening.

"There are still players coming from there - Mackail-Smith is one - but we do have players in the Premier League, which augers well for the national team.

"They've got some momentum from this qualifying and if there was another two or three games to go perhaps it would be different. Hopefully Craig Levein can carry this forward from this campaign."

Gallacher said that Levein is the right manager to continue Scotland's progress, with the likes of Manchester United's Darren Fletcher, Liverpool's Charlie Adam and Aston Villa's Alan Hutton all established figures in the team.

"There's no point in changing it now because you have to start all over again with a new manager," the former Blackburn and Newcastle forward stated.

"Levein understands the players now and he's got them doing something.

"But the players have to believe in themselves. Against Spain it was a lesson, but if they can start believing in themselves individually they can start taking positives out of what they've done and work harder at their game.

"It's a good squad and it's one that is possibly coming into its peak in football. They are one or two that are about the 30-year-old mark, a good few around 27 and approaching the prime of their careers, and the young ones are learning very quickly.

"I think this is a good chance for Scotland to qualify for the World Cup because all the countries in their group will be taking points off each other. It's a good chance for the players to step up."

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