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Scotland must recreate heroics of Belgrade and Wembley against Austria, insists Callum McGregor

Callum McGregor celebrates after scoring to make it 1-1 against Croatia at Euro 2020
Callum McGregor celebrates after scoring to make it 1-1 against Croatia at Euro 2020

Scotland must recreate the heroics of Belgrade and Wembley to overcome Austria, insists midfielder Callum McGregor.

The Scots memorably triumphed in in a play-off penalty shoot out against Serbia in Belgrade last November to secure qualification for the Euro 2020 finals.

At the Euros, Steve Clarke’s side held eventual beaten finalists England 0-0 at Wembley.

Such is the standard of Group F second seeds Austria, McGregor reckons it will require a similar performance to secure a positive result in Vienna tonight.

The 28-year-old Celtic midfielder is confident the Scots can deliver.

Callum McGregor celebrates after scoring to make it 1-1 against Croatia.

McGregor said: “I think it will take the kind of performance we put on in Serbia and at Wembley in the summer.

“Austria are a top team. They have a lot of experience and really good players.

“They are well organised and it’s going to take a top performance from us to take something.

“But we have shown in the past that we are well capable of that.

“So we will have confidence going into the game that we can get a result.”

Every Scot must produce their ‘A game’

With Denmark runaway Group F leaders, it is looking increasingly like the Scots are locked in a three-way fight with Austria and Israel for the runners-up spot that would bring a play-off berth for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar next winter.

McGregor has called for every Scot to produce their A game in Vienna.

Callum McGregor training with Scotland ahead of the trip to Austria.

He said: “It will take a big performance from everyone – the starting XI and the subs too.

“We all need to be at our very best, because that’s what it takes at this level to get a result.

“Everyone has to perform, but the older guys with more experience have to lead the way.

“We have to take responsibility and show the path for the younger ones. It’s a big effort from all of us.”

Bravery in possession needed in Vienna

McGregor was the only Scot to score in the Euro 2020 finals when netting an equaliser against beaten 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia at Hampden.

They would go on to lose 3-1 to Croatia in the final game of the group stages to be denied the distinction of becoming the first Scottish team to reach the knock-out phase of a major finals.

Callum McGregor scores Scotland's first tournament goal since 1998.
Callum McGregor scores Scotland’s first tournament goal since 1998.

In Scotland’s bid to make it back-to-back tournament qualifications, McGregor has urged players to be brave on the ball in Vienna.

He said: “When you are away from home in these games, you need to get a hold of the ball.

“That gives you a chance to get a breather and stem the flow of the other team trying to attack.

“You have to keep the ball for spells and take yourself out of the pressure.

“That allows you to grow into the game and we know that keeping possession is going to be so important.

“If you look at our best performances and results, that’s what we have been good at in those games.

“We have been able to take the ball, pass it and be a threat in the game”

Austria is a must not lose game for Scots

Scotland hold a one-point advantage on Austria, although Steve Clarke’s side trail leaders Denmark by seven points and are two points behind second-placed Israel.

Denmark host Israel tonight.

McGregor is going for three points in Vienna, but insists a draw would not be a disaster.

He said: “Firstly, we want to win the game and three points would be massive for us.

“But, on the other hand, if we get a point then it’s not the worst result.

“With four games to go, you would be in a decent position.

“So first and foremost, it’s a must not lose game.

“And, if you get the win, it’s a great result that puts us in a great position.”

Lost generation missed out on World Cup

Now 28, McGregor realises the opportunities to play in World Cup finals are dwindling.

Already 21 years since the nation’s last appearance at the World Cup, Scotland has a lost generation of players who failed to play in that tournament.

He said: “You get older and you realise that tournaments are hard to get to, hard to play in.

“When you are younger, you say: ‘there’s the next one and then the next one.’

“I’ve heard that story so many times.

“Even when I was younger I heard it from the experienced guys, who were the same.

“You keep saying: ‘next one’ – and then suddenly you are running out of time.

“That knowledge makes you appreciate a bit more the opportunity that you have.

“Playing in the Euros in the summer gave everyone a taste of it and we are desperate to get there again and hopefully get to a World Cup as well.’

Leaders throughout the Scotland squad

McGregor was named Celtic captain in the summer following the exit of influential Parkhead captain Scott Brown to Aberdeen.

Following the substitution of Andy Robertson in the 1-0 defeat of Moldova at Hampden, McGregor put on the captain’s armband.

On captaincy, he said: “It changes you in the sense that you become more responsible for your team-mates.

“You try to help them a little bit more and you always have to set the example for others to follow.

“The good thing about this Scotland squad is that we have a few captains and leaders.

“I always think the best teams are built on having three, four, five guys in the team who can take responsibility at any given time.

“You can’t just put that on one person in this day and age, with the way the game is played.

“That’s a big ask, so all the other guys need to chip in and help Andy Robertson as well.

“That is going to be vital moving forward.”

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