France v Scotland: Scots ready for French test, says Naismith

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland
Steven Naismith
Steven Naismith featured in Scotland's 1-0 defeat by Italy
International friendly: France v Scotland
Date: Saturday, 4 June Venue: Stade Saint-Symphorien, Metz Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Steven Naismith insists the Scotland players have learned plenty in defeat to Italy as they prepare to tackle France in Metz.

The Scots lost 1-0 to a wasteful Italian side in Malta on Sunday as they failed to muster even a shot on target.

However, Naismith argues these lessons and warnings are better heeded in friendly matches than when the World Cup qualifiers commence in September.

"We'll need to be at a better standard," said the 29-year-old.

"A mixture of having a lot of newer guys being involved from the start and not knowing how we've been set up for the last couple of years as well as some of the boys didn't help and also coming up against a team who played a back three.

"We've not really played that much against that and we're better coming up against that now in these friendly games than coming up against it on a difficult night in the campaign.

"We'll learn from the tough test that it was [in Malta] against a world class team and going into the next campaign. I'm sure if we come up against that, we'll fare better in the match.

"We've worked hard this week and will definitely be ready for it. It's a fantastic game for us all in the squad to be involved in and test ourselves against some of the best."

In search of a talisman

In recent times, manager Gordon Strachan has gone on record with his admission that he hopes at some point during his tenure that he will be able to unearth a so-called superstar who can change the course of matches because of his brilliance.

Wales have Gareth Bale to turn to for magic. Poland have Robert Lewandowski to turn to for goals. Sweden have Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Portugal boast Cristiano Ronaldo. Even Republic of Ireland could rely on Robbie Keane in his pomp.

But are there any superstars graduating from the Scottish youth system imminently?

Naismith is optimistic that may not be too far off, with Rangers youngster Barrie McKay coming in for particular praise.

"There definitely is," Naismith told BBC Scotland.

"Oliver Burke, Baz McKay has come in too and been great. He's probably the one who is the most 'not Scottish' type of player.

Barrie McKay
McKay is with the Scotland squad after an impressive season at Rangers

"He's the one who can make a difference. He's got a lot to learn but I'm sure we'll see him feature in the next campaign.

"If they work hard I'm sure they can be, but it's the hard work in every team that overrides the individual and that's what will be driven into them by the manager.

"I've been impressed with a lot of the youngsters who are going to be trying to make the next step. It's been good to meet them."

While some nations can be over-reliant on that one talisman, the France team that Naismith and his team-mates will come up against is littered with players who can change the course of a match.

"With the tournament being in France, they'll all be eager to impress against us," he said.

"Their squad is full of young players, guys who are hungry and this is probably the first tournament a lot of them have gone to, so it'll be tough.

"But, we want to be playing against these teams and match ourselves against them.

"We've got a different approach in that we've not got the superstars and guys who are going to win us a game themselves, we need to work as a team.

"And that's what our good form in the last campaign was based on and that is what we will move forward in the future with as well."

Domestic disappointment

Naismith has had an up and down season personally, sacrificing a comfortable life and lengthy contract at Everton for regular play time at Norwich City, with relegation the ultimate cost.

"It's been a strange one," he added. "There were some individual highs; the hat-trick against Chelsea [for Everton in September].

"But it's also been disappointing, finishing off with the relegation, which as a team is something you don't like."