National Teams (109)
Scotland under 21s are currently gearing up for two crucial European Championship qualifiers against France and Iceland, both at Pittodrie Stadium.
The Scots will take on France on Saturday night and Iceland on Tuesday next week.
The team have made a good start to the campaign after victory against Northern Ireland; goals from Ryan Christie and Ryan Fraser sealed the win last month.
Scotland will be confident in their chances; the squad announced for the matches is a strong one with many of the ‘big hitters’ being selected.
The team is experienced, with players such as Hearts’ Callum Paterson and Manchester United’s Donald Love the main defensive players being selected.
The midfielders include the League-Cup-Winning John McGinn, currently of Hibernian, John Souttar of Dundee United and Jay Fulton of Swansea City.
It could be argued that Scotland’s attacking players are the biggest strength in the squad, big names such as; Jason Cummings, who has netted four times in the Scottish Championship so far, Ryan Christie, fresh from signing a contract with Celtic, and exciting young prospect Ryan Gauld are included in this bracket.
Eleven members of the squad currently play in the SPFL Premiership, many of whom are regular starters, showing the real depth and quality of the young Scottish side.
Other leagues represented in the squad include those of the; SPFL Championship; English Premier League, Championship and League One; with Ryan Gauld the sole representative of the only non-UK based league.
John McGinn – The captain of the side will be looking to lead Scotland to victory in the two crucial qualifiers. McGinn is an integral part of the squad and has a lot of experience in high-profile matches.
Ryan Christie – The talented player will be looking to pose many problems for the defences of both sides and is in good form following two wins in a row with Inverness.
The Scots will be relishing the challenge of playing France on Saturday; a team featuring the likes of Bayern Munich’s Kinsley Coman will prove difficult. The Iceland match will also be a tough task, with the Icelanders showing similar form to the first team as they sit top of the group, beating France in the process.
The Scots are currently in a good position; the team sit second, having only played one game, and are ahead of Macedonia and Northern Ireland who have played two matches so far. France and Ukraine are both on zero points after one match, with Iceland racing away at the top with seven, having played three matches.
Elsewhere in the group Ukraine host Iceland, Macedonia travel to Northern Ireland and France play Ukraine in Strasbourg.
It is no secret that it will be a tough ask for Scotland to qualify with only the top team, and the four best runners up, qualifying for a play-off for the chance to fly to Poland in 2017 for the tournament. There is a small margin for error in under 21 qualifying, with the very limited qualifying places available.
But the team will take great confidence from the first match, beating one of their main rivals in Northern Ireland and already gaining a small advantage over the other sides below them.
Scotland are currently unbeaten in three competitive matches and will be hoping this form continues on Saturday night.
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Nineteen years, three months and five days. Since Scotland last played at a UEFA European U21s Championship finals, confirming their fourth-placed finish with a loss against France in the third-place play-off on 31 May 1996, almost a generation has passed.
In hindsight, that success seems a false dawn now, as they have struggled to get past the qualification stage ever since.
Newly appointed coach Ricky Sbragia will be looking to rectify that and get off to a flying start to the qualifying campaign for the 2017 UEFA European U21 Championship finals in Poland when his team take on Northern Ireland in their opening match at Mourneview Park in Lurgan on Saturday.
Scotland have been drawn into a strong group, being paired with France, Ukraine, Iceland and FYR Macedonia. Iceland already showed their credentials when they easily beat Macedonia 3-0 in the only qualifying match played so far. Scotland need to get out of the blocks equally as quickly if they are to have any realistic chance of making it to the finals.
They will be pinning a good portion of their hopes on in-form Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser, who is currently impressing on loan at Ipswich and was nominated for the Championship Player of the Month award for August on the back of his strong performances. Fraser has scored three goals in seven appearances for Ipswich so far, including a spectacular winner against Preston, and looks the player most likely to provide the attacking spark for Scotland.
In recent history, the most successful national teams have profited immensely from having blocks of players from the same teams in their ranks. Spain, with Barcelona and Real Madrid, and Germany, with strong blocks of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund players, respectively, have demonstrated just how fruitful knowing some of your teammates can be in terms of integration into the team and already having an understanding for their movement and behaviour on the field.
The time spent with national teams tends to be short, in many ways too short to build up any real attacking fluency or defensive partnerships. Having players in the squad that train and play with each other week in, week out is invaluable, as many of the seemingly telepathic connections that would usually require more time to build are already in place. It must be good, then, to see that kind of familiarity in the current under-21s squad, with goalkeeper Jack Hamilton, defenders Jordan McGhee & Callum Paterson and midfielders Billy King and Sam Nicholson all plying their trade at Hearts.
Other noteworthy players include Hibs forward Jason Cummings, West Ham’s Stephen Hendrie, Ryan Gauld of Sporting Lisbon fame and Dundee United’s John Souttar, who could make his debut for the under-21s.
For Northern Ireland, Michael Duffy of Celtic might be in line to get his fourth cap while Sbragia’s team will be looking to put Kilmarnock’s Conor Brennan, who is likely to start in goal, under early pressure.
Scotland have not played a competitive match against Northern Ireland on an under-21s level yet. However, they previously beat them 3-1 in a friendly in 2010 and will be hoping for a similar outcome on Saturday to secure a good platform from which to continue their campaign.
The players, all toddlers on that day in May 1996, will be hoping to defy history.
Scotland under-21 internationalist and former Aberdeen youth Ryan Fraser has missed out on the August English Championship Player of the Month award after being nominated for a series of high-quality showings for Ipswich Town.
It was announced this morning that the winner was Brighton & Hove Albion’s Kazenga LuaLua (pictured, right), younger brother of ex-Newcastle United attacker Lomana.
Fraser, a left-sided midfielder currently on-loan at the Tractor Boys from newly-promoted English Premiership underdogs Bournemouth AFC, was nominated for his sterling efforts during the first month of the league campaign.
The Aberdonian has scored two goals, including the winner against Preston North End at Deepdale, and has been credited with three assists so far this season.
Fraser is in Ricky Sbragia's Scotland under-21 squad for tonight's 2017 European Championship qualifier against Northern Ireland. If Fraser takes to the field in Lurgan, which appears likely given his good run of form at a high level, he will make his ninth appearance for his country at under-21 level.
Eventual winner LuaLua was also on sparkling form for his team throughout August. The pacy winger netted three times, including winners against Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers.
The 24 year-old, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but brought up on Tyneside, said: “It was very special just to be nominated for the award and to win is a very special moment for me, but the most important thing is that the team has started the season very well.”
His manager, former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton, added: "Kaz thoroughly deserves the award, he’s had a wonderful start.
"He has been exceptional in our first few games and he has a responsibility to keep that going and work on the aspects of his game that can help him improve, but the team have also played a great part in that and delivered for him."
Hughton was also victorious after being nominated for the August Manager of the Month award. Fraser’s boss at Ipswich, former Ireland, Sunderland and Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, was also nominated, with his side sitting in third-place after securing 10 points from a possible 15 in the early stages of England’s second-top division.
Scotland under-21 internationalist Ryan Fraser has been nominated for the English Championship Player of the Month award for August.
The left-sided former Aberdeen midfielder is currently on a season-long loan at Ipswich Town from English Premiership newcomers Bournemouth. The 21 year-old has put in a string of impressive performances for the Tractor Boys, who currently sit 3rd in the league table with manager Mick McCarthy targeting promotion to the big time.
Fraser’s pace and ability to both score and create goals from midfield has made an instant impact at Portman Road. During the first month of the league campaign, the eight-time Scotland under-21 cap has netted two goals, including a fabulous curled winner away to Preston North End, and created three others for his team-mates.
Fraser signed for Aberdeen FC in 2010 at the age of 16, making his first-team debut against Hearts in October of the same year under veteran ex-Scotland boss Craig Brown, who marked him out as a future star.
In December 2012, Fraser rejected the offer of a new contract from the Dons and just over a month later completed a £400,000 transfer from the Granite City to Bournemouth AFC.
After playing five times for his new employers in the second half of the 2012/13 season on the Cherries’ road to promotion from English League One, Fraser was a first-team regular in his first campaign in the Championship. In 37 league appearances, the Aberdonian scored three times. The following season he made 21 league appearances.
However, with Eddie Howe’s side now facing the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal in England’s wealthy top league, the former six-time Scotland under-19 cap has been farmed out on-loan to Ipswich, where he is now thriving.
Fraser’s fellow nominees for the Championship Player of the Month award for August are Birmingham City midfielder Stephen Gleeson, Burnley centre-half Michael Keane and Brighton & Hove Albion’s winger Kazenga Lua Lua.
All four nominees, despite their differences in position and the fact that none are strikers, were rather prolific in front of goal during last month. Not only has Fraser scored twice, but Gleeson has also netted two goals, Lua Lua has scored three times and even defender Keane has grabbed three goals, all thumping headers, from the back.
Regardless of whether he wins the competition or not this time, Fraser’s nomination demonstrates once again the breadth and depth of young Scottish talent currently coming through, hopefully to the benefit of the national teams at all age-levels.
Robbie Muirhead’s long-range strike comes ninth as Lionel Messi’s chip against Bayern is crowned UEFA Goal of the Season
We have all seen Lionel Messi’s spectacular move that left Jerome Boateng flat on his back and gave him the first-row seat to gasp at the graceful chip over Manuel Neuer that effectively ended the contest in last season’s Champions League semi-final first-leg.
This masterpiece of a goal was announced as the UEFA Goal of the Season 2014/2015.
But truly beautiful goals take on many forms and suddenly, Scotland U19s striker Robbie Muirhead, currently on-loan at Partick Thistle from SPFL Premiership rivals Dundee United, is being mentioned in the same breath as Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar et al. for his stunning 40-yard strike against Norway U19s in a qualification match for this year’s UEFA Under-19s European Championship finals in Greece.
With the teams tied at 0-0 in the 26th minute, the former Kilmarnock youngster dropped deep to receive a pass to feet about 40 yards away from the goal, turned, took two quick touches and then smacked an absolutely breathtaking arcing shot in over the despairing Norway goalkeeper.
In a poll conducted by UEFA, this strike was now voted the ninth best goal of this season’s UEFA competitions by fans.
As the Scottish FA welcome 100 new recruits to one of the country’s seven Performance Schools, recently appointed Performance Director Brian McClair insists Scotland’s future footballers have to dare to dream.
For the 51 year old, who previously headed up Manchester United’s youth academy, the ambitions of the performance school pupils is of paramount importance.
"The thing with dreams or visualisation, or whatever you call them, is that somebody steals them. Over time, somebody dampens that fire, puts it out, douses it, whatever. Here, we should be the opposite," he said.
"I still dream now. None of it’s realistic, but I still dream. I’ve won the US Open. I’ve won Wimbledon. I’ve won the darts. A lot of it is to do with sport, actually. I’ve even dreamt of being a journalist in Scotland!"
Asked what his dream would be in his role as Performance Director, McClair explained: "What we’re giving the kids is a fun, safe learning environment with some advice along the way. Ultimately, we want them to look back fondly and say that it was a great experience and it either helps them with their dreams whether it be by becoming a professional footballer or in their chosen careers."
Speaking at a press conference to launch the fourth year of the programme, the former Motherwell, Celtic and Manchester United man concedes that the latest recruits have embarked on a rollercoaster ride.
"For these young players, a number of them are going to play professional football if that’s what they want to do and that’s what they dream about. It is difficult. Very, very rarely is it a straight line from one age all the way, it’s a bumpy ride and some of the bumps can be pretty steep ones, but if you can manage to hang on it gives you a hell of a good chance to climb back out of it again," he said.
For Scottish FA Chief Executive Stewart Regan, the programme is already showing signs of success.
He said: "It’s still early days, because the true feedback will be when the first kids come off the pipeline. An accurate reflection will be when they leave school and how many get signed by their clubs and ultimately get to play first team football and - we hope - international football.
"At the moment, we’re measuring technical skills: the accuracy of their passing, shooting, dribbling as well as their fitness and making sure they’re spending more contact time with a ball. When we launched the Performance Strategy in 2011, we had a number of ements - one which was 10,000 hours contact time. As such, we hope all of this will turn into results when they leave school."
An example of such success is Rangers and Scotland under-17 youngster Zak Rudden (pictured, right). Rudden, who attends Broughton High School - one of the seven Performance Schools - was included in Scot Gemmil’s squad for the Under-17 Championship Finals in Bulgaria earlier this year. Rudden, 15, became the first Performance School player to score for Scotland when he netted in the under-15s win against Switzerland last year.
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