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Football: Vogts & Co should know by now that we are not a joke team any more; PARTICK KEEPER WARNS THAT THE MINNOWS PLAN TO PARTY AT HAMPDEN.

Byline: David Leggat

BERTI VOGTS has been accused of running scared of the Euro Championship qualifying group minnows from the Faroe Islands.

And the Scotland boss certainly seemed to add weight to that accusation from Faroes keeper Jakup Mikkelsen.

For Vogts delayed naming his squad for next Saturday's Hampden showdown with the fishermen and schoolteachers by 24 hours.

That, according to the Scottish Football Association, was in order to give him more time to make selection decisions.

Vogts seems less than sure of himself and his players, despite being in the job for 18 months and even taking into account his team's fine draw in Glasgow against Germany in June.

Faroes shot stopper Mikkelsen moved to Partick Thistle in the summer and can now give his team-mates a first-hand dossier on the shaky Scots.

Saturday's showdown at Hampden comes exactly a year after one of the most humiliating results in Scotland's 131-year-old international history - that infamous 2-2 draw with the Faroes. Mikkelsen played that afternoon and says: "I think we were all amazed at how easy it had been against the Scots in the first half when we went in 2-0 up at the interval.

"Vogts obviously remembers what happened and is scared of this game.

"He knows everybody in Scotland expects to win easily and I think he is trying to prepare the nation for the fact that it might not happen."

Vogts certainly appears nervy, for as well as that incredible 24-hour hold-up in announcing his squad, the coach is refusing to talk about the second match of the double-header when he takes the Scots to face Germany in Dortmund on Wednesday week.

No wonder Mikkelsen adds: "It was the same before we played against Scotland in Toftir last year because we all read Vogts saying before the game that the pitch there wasn't very good. That made us delighted, because it meant his players' minds were focused elsewhere.

"It is always good to hear the opposition make excuses even before a game."

The keeper also reckons Vogts and his Scots will not have learned the lesson from that day of shame halfway up a cliff out in the North Atlantic. He declared: "The Scots are like the Germans in that they always underestimate the Faroes.

"That was part of Scotland's trouble when they came to our home and also Germany, who were very lucky to win with late goals.

"I am sure the same thing will happen in this tie, even though they should all know we are no longer a joke team."

But Mikkelsen is well aware it is one thing giving Scotland, or even Germany, a fright in the Faroes, as opposed to doing anything away from their windswept home. He added: "I can't remember when we even drew a match away from home, but we are a lot better organised then we ever were and were unlucky in Iceland.

"If we can play as well as we did in that game and maybe get a little luck then we could get a draw in Glasgow."

Such a result would all but scupper Scotland's chances of making it to the Euro 04 play-offs by finishing as runners-up behind the Germans.

Vogts insists that to do that his side must beat the Faroes in six days and Lithuania when they come calling at Hampden next month for the group's final tussle. In between those ties Germany lie in wait, and while the odds are pointing firmly to defeat there, pinching a point would make at least the play-off place look good - but only if the Faroes are beaten in Glasgow!

Saturday is, therefore, more than merely the chance to avenge that horrendous afternoon when only the pride and grit of Barry Ferguson and Paul Lambert saved the nation's reputation from being totally and utterly destroyed.

Mikkelsen said: "The pressure will all be on Scotland again and that will make it interesting.

"It is a sign of the progress we have made that we were all bitterly disappointed when we only drew a year ago.

"There were no celebrations because we knew we should have won."

But the 33-year-old veteran, who quit his job as a postman to sign for Thistle, warned: "There will be a big party if we can get a draw in Glasgow - and I believe we can do it." SCOTLAND v Faroe Islands

Kick-off 3pm Saturday

Sky Sports One from 2.00


ISLANDS IN THE SCREAM... Teachers and fishermen they maybe but the Faroes were a match for Scotland last year; THISTLE DO:; Partick's keeper has poured scorn on Scots team; OH DEAR! Paul Lambert during Scotland's draw with the Faroes
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 31, 2003
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