This is not to say that Steve Clarke’s Scotland side go into games expecting to overwhelm teams or disregard their opponents, but rather that there is no fear factor or serious concern about the ability of opposing teams.
It’s a refreshing approach which has in turn produced results such as a comfortable win over Cyprus and a surprise triumph over Spain at Hampden. Ahead of a big week in EURO qualifiers with a trip to Norway ahead of the game against Georgia, confidence could again play a key role if Scotland are to maintain the momentum and remain at the top of Group A.
“There was maybe a bit of a fear factor before that,” McGinn said of the change in attitude in the Scotland squad.
“Maybe we were defeated before the game. But given the experience that everyone in our squad now has, that’s not the case.
“We have guys on the street playing European football, in big games, against top players. We also have guys here in England who play well-known names week in and week out. So naturally, that fear factor goes away.
“You realize you have to play them and as much as you respect them, you have to treat them like any other player.”
“I said that’s arrogance and I don’t want us to come across as an arrogant group.
“But there’s certainly more confidence and belief that you can see in the performances.”
CONTINUE READING: Scotland are not intimidated by Manchester City star Erling Haaland
Part of the recent success with back-to-back Nations League promotions has been the expectation of theoretically easier draws in qualifying for major tournaments.
That theory was quickly thrown into disarray when Scotland, despite their high placings, found themselves in a difficult group.
However, McGinn and co refused to address the challenge, instead using it as motivation to secure another spot in the Euro finals after achieving it in 2020.
“I think with hindsight we all expected an easier draw,” admitted McGinn, the SFWA International Player of the Year. “I know I was excited about second place, I watched the draw and I thought, ‘That’s just how lucky we are’.”
“But when you let that sink in, you think: Exactly, this is a challenge for us that we have to approach with confidence.
“I think we’ve developed a little arrogance towards the park. Something we didn’t have before.
“Rather than fearing people and teams, whether individually or as a group, we now come together with a firm belief that we can achieve results.
“The position we are in is very good, but we know that with the small number of games in this group, just one result could change that. Two wins in the summer will be extremely difficult, we know that. But the two games we had to start were tough and we managed to come through them strong.
“My job now is to keep playing away, everyone’s job is to stay fit. Of course we’ve already suffered some injuries, but we’re keeping an eye on staying fresh and fit while remaining injury-free.”
While the staggering result against Spain – who were relatively comfortable at Hampden – signals a serious chance in qualifying, keeping Erling Haaland calm against Norway could be a bigger challenge.
The striker missed his country’s first two qualifiers – a draw and a defeat – but will be back in action in Oslo after securing the treble for Manchester City.
For McGinn, it’s again a balance of respect, a healthy dose of concern and confidence that matters, backed by the Scotland national team’s ever-increasing confidence.
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Commenting on Haaland’s threat, McGinn said, “He’s certainly a player that Georgia and Spain have luckily avoided in the last two games.” He’s obviously one of the best players in the world.
“But alongside that they also have Martin Odegaard, who has been one of the key players in the Premier League this season.
“So it’s not just about stopping Hala, it’s also about stopping Norway.
“It’s not that simple as there are threats from different areas of the park.
“Both are the standout players in the Premier League and they are definitely the ones we have to keep quiet about.
“But if we try to play in big tournaments – and play in Pot 2 or Pot 1 or Division A of the Nations League – then we’re going to run into players like that.”
“Certainly our defense has shown that it is capable of keeping top strikers calm. It might be a bit more difficult with the big man.
“But we will do everything we can to firstly stop serving him and secondly do everything we can to stop him.
“We will respect him, we know what he is capable of. But of course we have to focus on what we can do to hurt them because we have players in our squad – who might not be talked about that much but who are still to be feared.”
And if it takes some dirty work to get a result? McGinn didn’t care, admitting he had ignored complaints from Spain internationals about game management tactics used by Clarke’s charges.
He concluded: “We don’t care what other people think. If they want to understand all this, they just ignore it.”