Friday, June 18, 2021
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Scotland look set to miss Euro 2016 party

Gordon Strachan (courtesy of all the general air of positivity that has been undeniably generated since Gordon Strachan became Scotland manager, even the most optimistic of devotees to the national side’s cause will harbour serious reservations about the Scots’ chances of making it to next summer’s European Championships in France following defeats to Georgia and Germany.



Of course, of the two recent matches, it was the Georgia fixture that has been by far the most damaging to Scotland’s qualification prospects. The rationale being that the chances of Strachan’s men taking points off the seemingly revitalised world champions – even at Hampden Park – were accepted beforehand as being very slim indeed.



However, the reversal on a humid evening in Tiblisi may just prove to be the fatal blow when the curtain falls on the campaign.


Prior to the latest round of fixtures, the mood emanating from the Scotland camp had been upbeat, and rightly so. Admittedly Scotland had played poorly in the last match in Dublin, but the point gleaned that day had cemented the view that Strachan’s men were sitting pretty with over half the matches completed. Qualification was a distinct possibility.


But then Georgia happened. The defeat itself was bad enough – Georgia, it will be remembered, had only overcome whipping boys Gibraltar during the campaign thus far – but in truth it was a deserved loss. Scotland turned in a wretched performance, one utterly devoid of invention and creativity, evidenced by the fact that not one single shot on target was achieved over a desperately poor ninety minutes.


Valeri Kazaishvili’s strike was as simple in its execution as it was devastating for Scotland. Even with over 45 minutes to go at that point, the sense that the goal would prove to be a dagger in the Scots’ hearts was acute.


Sure, there was plenty of honest endeavour, but that is simply not good enough for a side which had talked up its chances of ending a 17-year exile from major tournaments next year. Strachan’s tenure, defined up until that point by progress and potential, suddenly juddered to a halt, and the tartan army were left watching through their fingers once again.


Worryingly, Strachan stood pink-faced within his technical area for the most part, his colouring surely as much to do with acute embarrassment at the paucity of the performance as the admittedly stifling heat. His attempts to alter the flow of the match with tactical changes and substitutions did little if anything to reverse the slide towards crushing defeat.


Prior to the match, Strachan had claimed he couldn’t recall the last time Scotland were in Georgia. But plenty of fans had depressingly vivid memories of the 2007 clash, a 2-0 defeat which put paid to the team’s chances of making it to the 2008 Euros. Talk about déjà vu all over again!


Despite this major setback, we knew that the performance would improve against Germany, and not just because it could have hardly have got any worse. At least it was a home clash and a raucous Hampden Park under the floodlights would energise the players. And that well-worn phrase about the Scots faring better against the top sides would almost certainly ring true again, even if, ultimately, it would all end in glorious failure.


And so it proved. Scotland certainly made a good fist of the first half at least, and did well to pull themselves level twice at 2-2 with Germany at half time. However, the concession of a third goal early in the second period this time could not be clawed back, and despite admirable effort from the home side, a third equaliser proved beyond them and so the final whistle brought no tangible reward for the second time in four days.


It had to follow that other results would conspire to ensure that the pain inflicted on Scotland by those two defeats would deal them such a savage blow. Germany are out of sight and Poland are almost in the same category. Worse still, the Republic of Ireland are suddenly four points clear, and assuming the status of favourites for the only place Scotland can realistically covet – the third place play-off spot.


Scotland don’t really need to look further for reasons to be less than cheerful, but it won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the form of the other home nations is such that there is a real prospect next summer’s extravaganza in France will include England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


That, of course, really would be the final insult to a nation that as recently as a week ago dared to dream, before their aspirations turned to dust in 180 painful minutes.

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