Portugal v Scotland
DEAC Stadium, Debrecen
Saturday, 20 May (2pm kick off - UK time)
Scotland Under-17s continue their European Championship finals campaign with a match against Portugal on Saturday.
Brian McLaughlin’s side got underway in Group C with a 3-1 defeat to holders France in Debrecen. Rory Wilson got on the score sheet and Rory Mahady saved two penalties as Scotland took some positives from the challenge against their highly-ranked opponents.
Portugal began their tournament with a 4-0 defeat to Germany but, having been unbeaten in qualifying, they will be looking to bounce back against the young Scots.
Hearts and Scotland defender Rocco Friel spoke to us after Wednesday’s opener against France. The 16-year-old played 90 minutes, starting at right-back and finishing at right wing-back after Scotland tweaked the system at half-time. Having made his first Scotland appearance at any level last year, Friel is relishing playing at an international tournament for the first time.
Rocco – let’s start with Wednesday’s match. Your first match at tournament level, how did you find the experience?
I thought it was a challenging game. It was enjoyable though, there’s definitely positives for us to take out of it and into the next game. There’s areas for us to work on but all the boys know that.
I thought mentally it was harder than the physical side of it because you’re constantly thinking about where you need to be and what you need to do. It was tough but I think I got through it very well.
With international football it’s more the tactical side that’s different. With league football you can get away with small things whereas when you come here it’s those small margins that win or lose you games.
Despite the result, it was clear Scotland were trying to play and not just here to sit in and defend.
All the players have bought into the way we want to play and it’s enjoyable. You want to go and show your qualities against the best players in Europe and show that we’re not just a small nation – we can actually go and compete against big nations.
When did you first get the chance to represent Scotland?
Under-17s was the first age group that I’ve represented Scotland in. I made my debut in Malta last year against Northern Ireland. I came on for the last 15 minutes of the game and it was a special moment.
I had my dad and two of my uncles and my granddad over so there was quite a few of us! In the first game against Malta I unfortunately didn’t get on so the second game I was hoping and praying I would get on and I got on for the last 15 minutes so I did the best I could.
You touch on your family. How key have they been in pushing you on in your young career?
I’ve got quite a big family and they’re all massive supporters of me. They come to all my games, home and away. It’s great having people there to support you and I love having them at the side of the park.
My mum and dad and my uncle are over just now. They are staying in Budapest so they did the two-hour train through. I gave them a wee wave after the game and I’ll hopefully see them after a good result on Saturday.
You’re at Hearts just now and you’ve been fortunate to learn off a Scotland legend for the last 18 months in Steven Naismith - in both the Under-18s and the B Team. How important has he been for you personally?
He’s been great for the young players. His man-management is great and he gets the best out of the young players. He understands what everybody is like and how they adapt to different situations. He gets the best out of me and knows how to speak to me. He’s been massive for me.
This season you’ve played for the B Team as well as the Under-18s. How have you found the challenge of playing with the B Team in particular?
It’s been challenging in the B Team environment because you’re playing against men so the physical side of it is something you’re not really used to so trying to adapt to it is hard buy enjoyable.
At first it was a bit of a shock to the system because I didn’t realise quite how physical men’s football was but I think I adapted quite quickly.
From a Scotland point of view, are there any matches or moments that stand out when it comes to watching the national team?
I went to the Scottish FA JD Performance School at Holyrood so whenever they were playing at Hampden, Joe McBride (Scotland Under-17s assistant coach and head coach at Holyrood) used to get us all tickets so we used to go and watch them quite a bit when they were at Hampden. The Denmark game where we won a couple of years ago was probably the best one I’ve been to.
You mention the programme at Holyrood. What was your experience of the Performance School?
I joined the Performance School programme right at the start of secondary school and myself, Callan McKenna and Lennon Connolly all came through there. We finished last year but I still try and go in on my days off sometimes to do some training with Joe.
Nathan Patterson was there but he was doing his Highers so we didn’t see him too much but when I did he was nice. It was massive for my development, getting that extra football training compared to everyone else. It’s the extra one percents.
Joe was a really good coach, working with him for the four years was brilliant. We’ve got a good relationship and he’s done so much for me personally – helping me improve my game.
Being a full-back, I imagine it must be inspiring to see players like Nathan go on to achieve what he has in the game at such a young age?
Definitely. He went through the same pathway as me. He came through the Rangers Academy and went to Holyrood so there’s similarities there.
What he’s doing now is fantastic so that’s hopefully something I can go on and do as well. When we were training at Rangers he actually came in for a couple of sessions and coached alongside the coaches and he spoke to me after.
Being a right-back, he gave me some advice about how to do certain things so that was good for my development as well.
Just finally – how does it feel to be representing your country at a tournament like this?
This is something that you grow up dreaming of, so living it is exciting. All the games are going to be tough but there’s definitely a chance on Saturday to get three points so we’re give it our all and see what happens.
How to Watch
All three of Scotland's Group C matches will be live on the BBC Scotland website. Highlights of all the matches will be available on the Scotland National Team Youtube channel.
Scotland Under-17 Squad
Rory Mahady Leeds United
Callan McKenna* Queens Park
Josh Dede Celtic
Rocco Friel* Hearts
Mitchel Frame Celtic
Ruari Ellis* Kilmarnock
Owen Hastie Hibernian
Leyton Grant Rangers
Bailey Rice* Rangers
Kyle Ure Celtic
Gabriel Forsyth* Hamilton Accies
Rudi Allan-Molotnikov* Hibernian
Lennon Connolly* Queens Park
Lennon Miller Motherwell
Jacob MacIntyre* Hibernian
Rory Wilson* Aston Villa
Bobby McLuckie Hearts
Ryan One* Hamilton Accies
Ewan Simpson* Aston Villa
Findlay Marshall* Aberdeen
*Denotes Scottish FA JD Performance School participant.