Italy needed an injury-time Francesco Totti goal to beat Australia in Germany last year and drew 1-1 with nine-man USA, and McLeish is also taking confidence from the fact that Scotland have done what the Italians failed to do in their Euro 2008 qualifying group - beat France.
The Scots must add Italy to the scalp of the World Cup runners-up at Hampden on Saturday to guarantee qualification for the European Championship finals, and McLeish insisted: "I think back to the World Cup and how Australia and USA played against Italy and I take great optimism from both games."
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