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Walt praises McLeish, Scotland and Hutton a little


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Smith led the team to three victories in their opening four matches of the Euro 2008 campaign - including the first of two over France - before returning to Rangers for a second spell in January.

And he believes there is plenty of cause for optimism despite Saturday's heartbreaking last-gasp defeat by Italy, which ended Scotland's qualification hopes.

Smith said: "It was a disappointing outcome to what was a great campaign for Scotland.

"I think the team have had a terrific campaign right from the outset.

"In the early part we had to make sure we don't go losing goals, but since Alex has come in the team has grown in stature and confidence.

"I thought towards the end of the campaign they were playing their best football.

"It was terrific to see on Saturday - it's just a pity it didn't turn out the right way."

Smith believes the change in mood surrounding the national side means the campaign was far from a failure.

And he hopes that optimism increases when the World Cup preliminary draw is made in South Africa on Sunday.

"I don't think there was much optimism going into the European Championship group, but there is now and that's a great step forward," he told Rangers World. "We'll maybe get a bit of luck in the draw now."

Rangers right-back Alan Hutton was man of the match for many observers at Hampden and Smith is delighted with his continued improvement.

But the former Everton boss felt everyone in dark blue deserved praise for their performance, which would have earned a draw had Christian Panucci not benefited from a baffling injury-time free-kick awarded against Hutton.

"He has been playing exceptionally well this season," said Smith, who watched the action at the national stadium.

"It's good to see him in that vein of form, but I think all the lads that played on Saturday played very well.

"It was a great day allowing for the disappointment. They were terrific in the game, I thought they played exceptionally well.

"They were unfortunate not to win the game.

"There was a little bit of debate about the winning goal for Italy but Scotland had a few opportunities beforehand."


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