‘Scotland will be ready for qualifiers’

Grant Hanley

Hanley won his 22nd Scotland cap against Italy

Scotland defender Grant Hanley insists tackling Italy and France will hold the squad in good stead for their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign.

Following the loss to Italy, the Scots face the daunting proposition of taking on Euro 2016 favourites France in Metz.

“You’re playing against teams that are getting ready to compete at the Euros, so it’s brilliant for us to go and test ourselves against them,” Hanley said.

“So when those qualifying games come around, we’ll be up for them.”

Scotland begin their World Cup campaign away in Malta on 4 September before hosting Lithuania at Hampden Park on 8 October and then facing Slovakia three days later. They also face England at Wembley on 11 November.

“It’s another qualifying campaign, so we’re looking to get off to a good start,” noted Blackburn centre-back Hanley.

“We’re going to work hard to try and get better by playing against high-quality opposition.

“You have to treat every game as it comes. We’ll not be looking at ‘Are France a better side than Italy?’ We’ll be concentrating on ourselves and what we need to get better at.

“We’ll obviously give them the respect that’s warranted, but first and foremost we’ll be focusing on ourselves and looking at what we need to do to get something out of the game.”

Hanley’s team-mate, Ross McCormack, admits the Scots will need to improve upon their disappointing performance against Italy in Malta if they are to stand a chance of making the next World Cup finals in Russia.


Dimitri Payet (left) scored France’s winning goal against Cameroon on Monday

But he is confident that they will, against a French side who beat Cameroon 3-2 in Nantes on Monday thanks to a stoppage-time free-kick by West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet.

“I’m just glad Italy’s not in our group,” the Fulham striker said.

“You don’t want to make excuses, but there were a few factors in the Italy game; the pitch wasn’t great, for example, but we can be and will be better that that.

“Whoever plays for France, they are going to be different class aren’t they?

“It’ll be another great experience to be on a pitch with some of these superstars and we’ll try and be a bit better than we were against Italy.”

McCormack believes that, even if they had raised the bar against the Italians, they would have struggled to glean a positive outcome.

“Even if we had done things right, it would have been hard to get a decent result,” he said.

“The front guys could have probably got a bit closer to the defenders and pressed them a bit higher, but it was a difficult night.

“We’ve done it before. I’ve played against Holland, the boys have played against Spain, France before, we’ve done it all before, but it was good to share a pitch with them.

“We’ll try and learn from it because France will be a similar game on Saturday.”


Kingsley Coman (right) earned praise after his first start for France on Monday

Despite Payet’s late winner, it was 19-year-old Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman who received most of the plaudits in his first start for France.

He set up fellow midfielder Blaise Matuidi for the volleyed opener, but Cameroon levelled two minutes later when Vincent Aboubacar caught the France defence off guard to tap in from close range.

Striker Olivier Giroud put the home side ahead from a Paul Pogba cross four minutes before the break.

It looked like Les Bleus would have to settle for a draw when Eric Choupo Moting equalised from close range two minutes from time, but Payet sealed the victory.

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