Levein gains insight on Croatia

PA Sport
Craig Levein was encouraged after analysing next year's World Cup opponents Croatia despite Sunday's triumph
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Craig Levein was encouraged after analysing next year's World Cup opponents Croatia despite Sunday's triumph

Scotland manager Craig Levein gained some encouragement from analysing World Cup opponents Croatia despite their impressive victory over the Republic of Ireland.

Croatia, who are top seeds in Scotland's World Cup qualifying group, were deserved 3-1 winners over the Irish in their opening Euro 2012 game with imposing strikers Nikica Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic both on target. However, Sean St Ledger's headed goal from a free-kick was one of several things that gave Levein some hope as he watched in Poznan.

"I'm still trying to decide whether they were really good or if Ireland maybe just underperformed a little bit," Levein told talkSPORT.

"I wasn't surprised by Croatia, I knew they were a good side. They were number one seeds in our group so you expect them to be a good team.

"What I was hoping was to see something we could maybe take encouragement from. There were a few things I felt that we could look at and learn from that could give us an opportunity to score against them.

"But they were good going forward. It's very unusual to see two teams playing 4-4-2 and both teams played with two strikers right up the pitch and didn't drop back out of possession."

Levein was impressed with the attacking play of wing-backs Darijo Srna and Ivan Strinic but he hopes their style leaves them open when Scotland face their opponents in Croatia in 12 months' time.

"Srna plays like a winger," Levein said. "He has got great energy and experience. The way (Ivan) Rakitic tucked in was clever and the two of them linked very well. That's an area we have to watch out for.

"But when you're as brave as that in the full-back areas, if you can get a quick transition and get the ball forward into the wide positions, there are opportunities there.

"The two full-backs aren't defenders - that's what I see. They're more inclined to attacking so the best part of their game isn't defending. In particular, anything that comes into the box in the air, to me they didn't look particularly solid."

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