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CALMAC’S CHALLENGE TO GRIFF

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LEIGH GRIFITHS has a month and seven games to prove he can go on strike for Celtic and Scotland.

Team-mate Callum McGregor hopes the hitman can follow on from his crucial barrier-breaking late goal against St Johnstone a week ago to fire his nation to the finals of their first major international tournament in 22 years.

The Hoops midfielder was put on the spot during the penalty-kick shoot-out against Israel at Hampden on Thursday night after the Euro Play-Odd semi-final had finished goalless after extra-time.

McGregor swept in his effort from 12 yards as did John McGinn, Scott McTominay, Lawrence Shankland and Kenny McLean to claim a place in the final against Sebia in Belgrade on November 12.

Griffiths made his first appearance of the campaign against the Saints seven days ago with the champions toiling towards a scoreless stalemate until he rose to thump in a header from a Hatem Abd Elahmed right-wing cross in the 90th minute and fellow-sub Patryk Klimala made certain deep in stoppage-time.

HEADS IN WIN…Leigh Griffiths powers in his late effort to leave St Johnstone keeper Zander Clark helpless.

McGregor believes his Hoops pal can make a similar impact for Scotland. The skilful anchorman, speaking to the Sunday Mail, said: “It’s down to him to get a himself playing games again.

“We know from what happened in Perth that if he gets a chance he’s going to score. That’s the kind of quality Leigh has.

“The national team would benefit from that, so it’s a challenge for him. You could throw him into the Serbia game and he wouldn’t be fazed. No matter the level, if he gets that one chance he’ll score.

“We have a lot of good strikers in the Scotland squad, though, so the challenge is to get fit. If he does that, I don’t think anybody would doubt his quality.”

McGregor added: “There was a lot of pressure on the squad to do the job on Thursday night. It had been building for months and everyone was waiting on that result.

“To get that first bit of success collectively, you could see the relief and joy in the camp. We’ve managed to take that step and now we’re in a final.

“The first part of the job is done and if we go to 
Serbia and get a positive result, it will be huge for the country.

“We showed great 
character and strength in depth to get through the Israel game.

“We were missing six players and still won. That says a lot for the quality we have and the mindset.

”Serbia have a lot of quality in their squad and it will be a tough game for us, but in a one-off Cup Final, you just never know.”

 
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