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Summary

  1. Build-up to Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Malta
  2. Lee Wallace pulls out of squad
  3. Scotland best as underdogs - Martin
  4. Scotland's U21s in action later

Live Reporting

By Keir Murray

All times stated are UK

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Good night

That's all from our live text coverage today. You can watch how Scotland's Under-21s get on against Macedonia at Tynecastle this evening by following the BBC Alba coverage (starting at 19:20 BST) or by listening to BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound, both of which can be accessed here.

All the best.

LINE-UPS AT TYNECASTLE

Scotland U21: Kelly, Smith, McGhee, Souttar, Kingsley, Christie, Gauld, Slater, Fraser, Henderson, Cummings. Subs: Hurst, McBurnie, Hyam, King, Nicholson, Cadden, O'Hara.

Macedonia U21: Aleksovski, Bejtulai, Velkoski, Zajkov, Murati, Markoski, Nikolov, Bardhi, Demiri, Babunski, Radeski. Subs: Siskovski, Elmas, Musliu, Amanovic, Pivkovski, Kostadinov, Avramovski. 

Referee: Sebastian Coltescu (Romania)

Three Ryans in the shirt...

U21s | Tonight's starting line-up for our @UEFAUnder21 qualifier against FYR Macedonia #MakeYourMark

U21s | Tonight's starting line-up for our @UEFAUnder21 qualifier against FYR Macedonia #MakeYourMark

Tune in to Sportsound

Sportsound is under way on BBC Radio Scotland. There will be live coverage of Scotland's U21 game against Macedonia from Tynecastle.

Listen in here.

Malta v Scotland (Sun)

In addition to Boavista's Andre Schembri, who features heavily in Liam's article, Malta's top goalscorer, Michael Mifsud, is still a key member of their squad after netting 40 international strikes. The 35-year-old forward now plays in his homeland after a well-travelled career that saw him ply his trade in Germany, Norway, Australia and England, where he turned out for Coventry and Barnsley. 

One player currently playing in England is pacy left-winger Luke Gambin, who rejected a six-figure move from Barnet to League Two rivals Leyton Orient this week. The 5ft 6in player could cause problems with his composure on the ball.

Malta's top goalscorer, Michael Mifsud
Getty Images
Malta's top goalscorer, Michael Mifsud

No lighter way against Maltese

Liam McLeod

BBC Sport Scotland

"Anything other than an away win is unthinkable against a side that has only ever won two World Cup qualifiers and only once since the two nations were last paired together for a place at the 1994 finals.

"Since that campaign, the Maltese - who are at their lowest ever Fifa ranking of 176 - have finished bottom of their section in each of their 11 groups with just one victory all told in the last three years - against fellow Group F participants Lithuania.

"They are also the only side to lose to Gibraltar at full international level."

Read BBC Scotland commentator Liam McLeod's piece on Malta.

Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo and his Maltese marker Andre Schembri
Getty
Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo and his Maltese marker Andre Schembri vie for possession

No signing 'for the sake of it' at Celtic

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has been telling Celtic TV about his wishlist ahead of the transfer deadline closing on Wednesday.

"I wanted to bring another creative player into our midfield to support the players we had here but I'll never bring in anyone just for the sake of bringing in a player," he said.

"It has to be the right type of player and profile otherwise you waste time, money and energy.

"We brought in five players that can make a difference to the squad and can help the squad. We tried everything we could to get the right level of quality player in, but the players we wanted in just weren't available to get and you can't get a player if a club doesn't want to sell him or loan him.

"But I'm more than happy with what we've got for now, the work we've done in this first window as a club has been very, very good and now gives us a chance to really focus and analyse on our recruitment with the recruitment team over the course of the coming months to maybe do something in January. 

"But the players I have here - I'm absolutely delighted with their attitude and energy and they're only going to improve now as we progress over the next few months."

Brendan Rodgers
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Brendan Rodgers describes Celtic's new right-back Cristian Gamboa as "super fast" and "aggressive in defending"

Two dozen of Scotland's finest

With Lee Wallace pulling out of the squad, Scotland will have 24 players on the flight from Glasgow to Malta tomorrow morning. The Scots will train at the National Stadium on Saturday night.

Have you had a go at our squad selector for the match yet?

Learning from the Italian masters

Malta's Italian manager Pietro Ghedin is in his second spell in charge of Malta, the first having come in the mid-1990s. The former Fiorentina and Lazio defender was a long-standing coach with the Italian national set-up before returning to Malta four years ago. The 63-year-old acted as assistant manager in several major tournaments, under Cesare Maldini, Dino Zoff and Giovanni Trapattoni.

Malta manager Pietro Ghedin
Getty Images
Malta's Pietro Ghedin was also previously Italy's women's coach, guiding them to the Euro 2009 quarter-finals

Could this happen in Scotland?

This remarkable incident - a fan kissing Messi's boot - during Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Uruguay yesterday has us wondering if a similar scenario could ever be played out in Scotland.

Which player would merit such...affection? And what would the player have to have done to merit such...an honour?

A fan kisses Lionel Messi's boot during Argentina's 1-0 win over Uruguay in Mendoza yesterday
Getty Images
A fan kisses Lionel Messi's boot during Argentina's 1-0 win over Uruguay in Mendoza yesterday

Wallace pulls out of Scotland squad

SCOTLAND | Update OUT: Lee Wallace No further additions to the squad.

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Facebook comments

Jonathan Sutherland's piece on Scottish defenders has drawn a few comments to note:

Paddy McDaid: "Never mind Scottish defenders!! Where are all the great defenders. Defenders of genuine world class.....you would struggle to name a handful (and I'm referring to those who would stand up against the likes of Maldini, Baresi, Cannavaro, Desailly, Beckanbauer et al). In the EPL, you are really looking at Kompany (who struggles to kick a ball these days)." 

Michael Caffrey on Dundee United defender Davd Narey: "Legend in every sense of the word. As an Arab I'm proud to be able to say that i was able to see him play in the famous Tangerine so many times and always a pleasure to watch. I salute u David Narey. Arabest" 

Dundee United defender Dave Narey is closed down by Rangers midfielder Nigel Spackman
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April 1991: Dundee United defender Dave Narey is closed down by Rangers midfielder Nigel Spackman

Scotland, be warned

Malta warmed up for Sunday's game with a 1-1 draw in Estonia this week. Other recent friendlies include a 2-1 defeat in Austria as part of the hosts' Euro 2016 preparations and a goalless draw with Moldova, and they beat Lithuania last year. 

They finished bottom of their European Championship qualifying group with two points and are at their lowest ebb in the Fifa rankings at 176th. But some of their qualifying results show they will be no pushovers. Twice Italy needed a solitary Graziano Pelle goal to beat them, even when Malta were playing with 10 men for more than an hour in their home game. Italy only managed one shot on target in the first half in Florence. Malta also drew in Bulgaria, and Croatia only beat them 1-0 in the Ta'Qali Stadium when they needed to win to qualify.

BBC Scotland commentator Liam McLeod's analysis of the Maltese opposition is coming soon...

Italy's Graziano Pelle scores against Malta in Valletta in a Euro 2016 qualifier in October 2014
Getty
Italy's Graziano Pelle scores against Malta in Valletta in a Euro 2016 qualifier in October 2014

Get Involved

#bbcsportscot

@BBCSportScot 'squad selector' shows how embarrassing the Scotland national team is. A who's who of who shouldn't be there. #bbcsportscot

Malta's finest moments

Scotland's World Cup qualifying hosts on Sunday are Malta, who are a lowly 176th on the Fifa rankings, one place below Tahiti.

Malta finished bottom of their Euro 2016 qualifying group, with just two points from their 10 matches.

However, spirits will be boosted by Wednesday's 1-1 friendly draw in Estonia and they have caused a few upsets over the years.

Here's a look at their top five qualifying results:

Malta 0-0 West Germany - 1984

Portugal 2-2 Malta - 1987

Malta 0-0 Czech Republic - 2000

Malta 1-1 Croatia - 2005

Malta 2-2 Turkey - 2007

Malta's Ta'Qali stadium
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The Ta'Qali national stadium in Malta

Scotland U21s v Macedonia U21s (19:30 BST)

Scotland meet Macedonia at Tynecastle tonight in an Under-21 qualifier for the 2017 European Championship.

Ricky Sbragia's side sit fourth in Group 3, with eight points from six matches.

The visitors are four points better off, having played one more game, while France lead the way from Iceland.

The nine group winners will automatically progress to join hosts Poland in next year's finals while the four best runners-up will compete in play-offs to decide the final two entrants, so nothing less than a victory will do to keep alive faint hopes of qualification.

BBC Radio Scotland will provide live commentary, with BBC ALBA also showing the game. Both broadcasts are available via the BBC Sport website.

Read the latest from Scotland Under-21s head coach Ricky Sbragia.

Scotland Under-21 players Ryan Gauld, Ryan Fraser, Dom Hyam and Ryan Christie
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A trio of Ryans (Gauld, Fraser and Christie), plus Dom Hyam train as part of Scotland's Under-21 squad

Scotland's opening-match fortunes

Richard Wilson

BBC Scotland

The importance of Scotland making a positive start to the World Cup qualifying campaign in Malta on Sunday was emphasised during the Euro 2016 qualifiers, when Northern Ireland began with three straight wins on their way to winning Group F.

Scotland’s recent record in the opening games of qualifying tournaments is not encouraging, though. Since they last reached the finals of a major competition – France 98 – Scotland have played in nine qualifying groups and won only two of their opening matches. 

Here is the playing record and the results from Scotland's opening games:

P 9  W 2  D 5  L 2  GF 10  GA 5

September 1998 – Euro 2000 qualifying – Lithuania 0-0 Scotland

September 2000 – World Cup 2002 qualifying – Latvia 0-1 Scotland

September 2002 – Euro 2004 qualifying – Faroe Islands 2-2 Scotland

September 2004 – World Cup 2006 qualifying – Scotland 0-0 Slovenia

September 2006 – Euro 2008 qualifying – Scotland 6-0 Faroe Islands

September 2008 – World Cup 2010 qualifying – Macedonia 1-0 Scotland

September 2010 – Euro 2012 qualifying – Lithuania 0-0 Scotland

September 2012 – World Cup 2014 qualifying – Scotland 0-0 Serbia

September 2014 – Euro 2016 qualifying – Germany 2-1 Scotland

The Tartan Army will be in Malta demanding three points to set the team on the right path to Russia in 2018
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The Tartan Army will be in Malta demanding three points to set the team on the right path to Russia in 2018

Under the radar...

Defender Russell Martin prefers Scotland being the underdogs in Group F.

"People don't expect us to be there, but we're better like that, when people don't expect it," he said.

"It's a group where people will take points off each other, so I don't think there will be one runaway leader.

"People will say England are expected [to win the group] because they've been so strong in qualifying over the last few years, but it's a strong group.

"We need to pick up points consistently. It'll be tough, but we just need to make sure that we're in and about it and in 18 months time in with a chance of doing it."

Scotland's World Cup qualifiers

4 Sep 2016: Away Malta

8 Oct '16: Home Lithuania  

11 Oct '16: Away Slovakia  

11 Nov '16: Away England  

26 Mar '17: Home Slovenia  

10 Jun '17: Home England

1 Sep '17: Away Lithuania

4 Sep '17: Home Malta

5 Oct '17: Home Slovakia

8 Oct '17: Away Slovenia

Russell Martin in action against France's Anthony Martial
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Russell Martin in action against France's Anthony Martial in June

Scotland's Game part three preview

Challenge Cup

Our colleagues in BBC ALBA have live coverage of Sunday's Challenge Cup third-round tie game between Turriff United and Hibernian.

Hibernian are entering the competition at this round and will be looking to overcome Turriff and reach the latter stages of the tournament after exiting at the hands of eventual winners Rangers in the first round last season.

The programme starts at 14:50 BST. 

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon
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Hibernian manager Neil Lennon will hope to lead his Leith side to cup glory in his first season in charge

Where are Scotland's great defenders?

Jonathan Sutherland, taking a break from playing with the remote control for the Sportscene big screen, has been talking to former Aberdeen and Scotland stalwart Willie Miller and current Hearts centre-half John Souttar about the modern-day demands on the central defender and the lack of them in Scotland.

Read the story.

John Souttar
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John Souttar, about to turn 20, has made more than 80 league appearances for Dundee United and Hearts
Willie Miller is flanked by striker Steve Archibald and centre-half Alan Hansen ahead of Scotland's match against Brazil at the 1982 World Cup
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Willie Miller is flanked by striker Steve Archibald and centre-half Alan Hansen ahead of Scotland's match against Brazil at the 1982 World Cup. Brazil won 4-1 (somehow)

Imagine you're the Scotland boss...

Here's the scenario. Gordon Strachan has been felled by an atrocious bout of toothache and can't make the trip to Malta.

His assistant Mark McGhee has lost his passport and Walter Smith refuses to come out of retirement, so the nation turns to YOU to choose the team to get Scotland's World Cup qualification campaign off to a flying start.

Choose your Scotland formation and team using the squad selector and then share it with your pals via email or social media.

Right, where are those bibs and cones? A nation calls.

Might the Scotland team look something like this? OK, probably not
BBC
Might the Scotland team look something like this? OK, probably not

Have we met?

The astonishing turnaround in the playing squad at Kilmarnock has continued with the loan spells of Stoke City's Mark Waddington and Swansea City's Oliver Davies cut short.

We can only imagine the confusion over parking spaces and locker keys, never mind initials on training kit.

In: Dapo Kayode, defender (Dinamo Bucuresti); Callum McFadzean,midfielder (Sheffield United); Martin Smith, midfielder (Sunderland);Souleymane Coulibaly, forward (Peterborough United); Jordan Jones,midfielder (Middlesbrough); Jamie Cobain, defender (Newcastle United);Joshua Webb, defender (Aston Villa). Loan: Oliver Davies, goalkeeper (Swansea City); Mark Waddington, defender (Stoke City); Jonathan Burn,defender (Middlesbrough); George Green, midfielder (Burnley); Luke Hendrie,defender (Burnley); Scott Boyd, defender (Ross County); Charlee Adams,midfielder (Birmingham City); Flo Bojaj, forward (Huddersfield Town); William Boyle, defender (Huddersfield Town).

Out: Josh Magennis, forward (Charlton Athletic, undisclosed); Julien Faubert, defender (Aris Saloniki); Mark O'Hara, defender (Dundee); David Syme,defender (Partick Thistle); Chris Johnston, midfielder (Raith Rovers); Jamie Hamill, midfielder (Queen of the South); Kevin McHattie, defender (Raith Rovers); Lee Ashcroft, defender (Dunfermline Athletic); Tope Obadeyi, forward (Dundee United); Mark Connolly, defender (Crawley Town); Craig Slater,midfielder (Colchester United); Kallum Higginbotham, midfielder (Dunfermline Athletic); Conor Brennan, goalkeeper (Raith Rovers); Dale Carrick, forward (Livingston); Conrad Balatoni, defender; Lee McCulloch, defender (retired); Alex Henshall, midfielder; Darryl Westlake, defender; Aaron Splaine, midfielder. Loan ended: Lee Hodson, defender (MK Dons); Stuart Findlay, defender (Celtic). Loan cut short:Oliver Davies, goalkeeper (Swansea City); Mark Waddington, defender (Stoke City).  

Kilmarnock manager Lee Clark with some of his new recruits, two of whom have now returned to their parent clubs
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30 June 2016: Kilmarnock manager Lee Clark with some of his new recruits, two of whom have since returned to their parent clubs

'Scotland can be inspired by Wales'

Malta v Scotland, Sunday 4 September (KO 19:45)

Matt Ritchie says Scotland should be inspired by how Wales performed at the European Championships as they begin their World Cup qualifying campaign. 

The Newcastle winger hopes Gordon Strachan's team can be the "surprise package" in Group F, which they kick off against Malta on Sunday. 

"Nobody expected Wales to do so well in the Euros and they did fantastically," said the 26-year-old. 

"Hopefully we can have the same sort of impact on our group."

Read more here.

Matt Ritchie
SNS
Matt Ritchie says Scotland can take inspiration from Wales' exploits at Euro 2016

Birthday wishes

Thanks for all the birthday wishes. Also, happy one year older day to everyone else born on this day ever!

Get Involved

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Will Scotland do the business against Malta in their opening World Cup qualifier?

Tweet @bbcsportscot, text via 80295 or visit our Facebook page.

What's on the back pages?

  • Tony Watt could lead Scotland's attack for the World Cup qualifier against Malta after after heart-to-heart talks with Scotland assistant Mark McGhee about the striker's attitude 
  • Former Scotland striker Frank McAvennie can't understand why £12m Aston Villa man Ross McCormack has been overlooked by Gordon Strachan
  • Russell Martin wants Scotland to use the hurt felt from failure to qualify for Euro 2016 to propel the team to World Cup qualification 

Read the rest of our round-up, as you tuck into your bowl of sugarpuffs, here 

Striker Tony Watt
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Will Tony Watt spearhead Scotland's attack in Sunday's World Cup qualifier?

Welcome

Good morning and a warm welcome to our Friday edition of the latest Scottish football news and gossip.

Our attention turns to Scotland matters, as Gordon Strachan prepares to take his troops into World Cup qualification battle against Malta on Sunday...    

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan
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Gordon Strachan will be aiming high against the Maltese on Sunday