Darren Fletcher: Scotland can reach the 2018 World Cup

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland in Prague
Darren Fletcher is enjoying the continuity of working under Gordon Strachan
Darren Fletcher is enjoying the continuity of working under Gordon Strachan
Czech Republic v Scotland
Venue: Generali Arena, Prague Date: Thursday 24 March Kick-off: 19:45
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher believes the squad is good enough to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.

The West Brom captain is confident Scotland have enough quality to emerge from a group that includes Euro 2016 rivals England and Slovakia.

"We know how difficult it's going to be, it's a tough group," said Fletcher ahead of Scotland's friendly in Prague, where he should win his 71st cap.

"But I think it's a group we shouldn't be scared of."

Scotland media conference in Prague: Gordon Strachan and Darren Fletcher

Fletcher's career wish list

The 32-year-old added: "If we perform to our level and improve that extra percentage then I think we could be in a really good position for qualifying.

"I really want to qualify for a major tournament and play there for my country.

"It's one of those things you dream about, it's one of those things that's on the list that's not been ticked yet.

"I'm desperate to cross it off."

Fletcher said he was delighted that Gordon Strachan has decided to remain in charge for the upcoming campaign in which Scotland will also play qualifiers against Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

Strachan is the sixth full-time national coach that Fletcher has served under since his debut as a precocious Manchester United teenager under Berti Vogts in 2003.

On his Scotland debut, Darren Fletcher twists away from Norway's Jan Gunnar Solli
On his Scotland debut in 2003, Darren Fletcher twists away from Norway's Jan Gunnar Solli

"Continuity is something I've not really had in my Scotland career with managers and I think the fans, especially, recognise the job he did with the way we (have) played," he added.

"They felt that we'd made progress and I think they enjoyed watching the team go out and attack and try to win every game.

"We've had managers who have gone to club level when we've been on the verge of qualifying and we've had the opposite where managers haven't done so well and lost their jobs.

"So having that consistency over a couple of campaigns isn't something I've really experienced.

"I think everyone knows that if you stick with a manager and you know that he's doing the right things then ultimately you're going to get success from that."

Good, but not great, players

Strachan himself believes the difficult friendly schedule he has lined up is imperative in laying foundations for the upcoming qualifiers to reach the finals in Russia in 2018.

The Scots face four sides ranked above them in their next four matches in the Czechs, Denmark, Italy and France.

"You can really judge the players when they come to play teams like the Czech Republic," the manager told BBC Scotland.

Gordon Strachan
Gordon Strachan reiterated his belief that there are no great players in the Scotland squad, but praised their desire to play well for the national side

"So, we need to play these teams to see if we have players who can come through and who are comfortable at this level.

"We feel we've got good players. We haven't got great players but we have a great group of players who want to do well for the country and put themselves out for the country.

"We make ourselves into a good side through application - which we've seen this week.

"I don't judge us by other teams. Other teams have had better individuals than us but we've beaten them because of our team-work."

Scotland are a 'very strong team'

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic's Tomas Sivok says his team will not be underestimating their visitors, despite the recent contrasting fortunes of the two sides.

The Bursaspor defender will captain the team in the absence of injured Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky.

And the 32-year-old admits he was surprised that, unlike them, the Scots failed to qualify for this summer's European Championship finals.

"Yesterday we watched their games with Poland and Germany and they're a very strong team," the centre-half said.

"For us it will be a big test and it will be good preparation.

"I think the system of Scotland has changed. Before, it was a typical British style of long balls but what we saw yesterday was a Scottish team that tries to play lots of passes."

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