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44 of 046

New parent Berra helps to deliver Scotland's first point, but the next arrival is already at the forefront of his mind

Graeme Macpherson
Football Writer

'IN the first half my head was -" started Christophe Berra before the sentence trailed off.

Either the Scotland defender decided it prudent not to reveal just how he was feeling after a frantic week or perhaps his brain had simply turned to mush and he couldn't think of the words. Becoming a father for the first time can do that to a man.

The arrival of a newborn is a hectic time for any new dad but few then have to almost immediately leave mother and baby behind, hop on a plane, and go and play international football in front of 47,000 supporters. The draw with Serbia was not the result Scotland were looking for at the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign but it was not sufficient to keep the smile off Berra's face as he spoke about his tumultuous week. In the circumstances he did well to keep his concentration for 90 minutes to help Scotland record a shut-out, the only disappointment that he couldn't mark his daughter Savannah's arrival with a goal.

"I trained with Wolves on Thursday morning, got Amy [his fiancée] out of hospital which I needed to do, flew up tea-time on Thursday, then trained on Friday and played in the match on Saturday," he revealed. "I thought I did okay in the game considering I've been on my feet all week.

"It's been non-stop. My fiancée had a 48-hour labour, then I had to fly back here and since then I've been on the phone every hour making sure she's okay. My mum and dad, and her dad are down there looking after her so she's in great hands. I wanted to come and play for Scotland and she understood that. It's just a pity I didn't score on Saturday as it would have topped off a great week.

"Before the game there were so many thoughts going through my head and you go out there and try to concentrate. It's hectic but you get through it and a clean sheet is pleasing."

Manager Craig Levein was without Danny Fox, Charlie Mulgrew and Russell Martin due to injury and for a while it looked as if Berra would be unavailable too. "At one point I thought I was maybe going to miss the game," he said. "If the baby hadn't come on Wednesday I probably wouldn't have made it. She stayed just one night in hospital which let me get away. If she had asked me to stay I would have but she wanted me to come up and play for my country."

Berra will have to wait a while longer before he can be reunited with his new family. The disappointment of the goalless draw will need to be quickly put to one side with Scotland now facing a crucial match tomorrow at home to Macedonia.

The failure to create sufficient scoring chances, and the low-key tempo Scotland adopted against Serbia, would seem to be cause for concern, but Berra believes there is still plenty to be positive about. "We wanted to get three points but we'll just have to be satisfied with one and we now look forward to Tuesday night. If we put in a similar performance in defence and take our chances we'll have a great chance of getting three points."

Levein's side looked more potent in attack against Serbia following the introduction of Jamie Mackie, the QPR striker brought on alongside Jordan Rhodes with nine minutes remaining. The striker's wilful running injected Scotland with some much-needed impetus and he is hopeful of being given a chance to make an impact from the start against Macedonia tomorrow evening.

"I hope I have given the manager some food for thought," Mackie said. "I wasn't on for very long but I'm sure he knows what I can do anyway. If I ever get the nod, then I'm more than ready. I feel sharp and I'm sure I'll take my chances.

"We have a strong squad and while everyone wants to start games, if you are on the bench you have to have a positive impact when you are called upon. I enjoyed coming on up front and we nearly carved out a few opportunities in the end. We have another game on Tuesday night and we'll see if I get another chance.

"It goes without saying that we need to win the game [against Macedonia]. We need to score goals, we know that, and that will be our aim."

Rhodes and Mackie were given little time in which to turn the game but the QPR striker had no problem with Levein's decision to delay their entrance. "That's not for me to decide, I'm not the manager. I'm ready to come on at all stages but it's not down to me," he said. "The longer you get on the pitch, the better, but it's not for the players to make those decisions. Whoever gets the nod, we'll all be right behind them and willing them to do well."

Branislav Ivanovic, the Serbian defender, was understandably more content to have left Hampden with a point and he also believes the Scots can be written off if they do not recover with a win tomorrow.

"If they want to stay close [they have to win] as it is important not to have a gap at the beginning of the qualification," said the Chelsea defender. "To catch other teams is very difficult. So if you are looking to be close to the top of the group you have to beat Macedonia."

Taken from the Herald

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