Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scotland 2 v 3 Spain: Gallant Failure Again

Amazing what happens when you just have a little bit of belief, a soupcon of adventure.

As Scotland somehow clawed back a two goal deficit to get on level terms with Spain last night suddenly there seemed reason to believe again.

A Naismith header and an own goal had all but wiped out the memory of the disaster of Prague last night Friday night.

Life was great again. At least until Fernando Llorente restored order and gave the world champions a 3-2 win.

Quite a night. The gallant failure, the Hampden roar. Just like old times.

And, in getting back to two each, Scotland played as well as they have managed in this qualifying campaign.

So last night was a boost to country that has seen almost all of its footballing confidence drain away.

But the harsh reality is that this was another defeat. In the circumstances, against this opposition, an honourable one but still a defeat.

When we next kick off in Group I we are likely to be in fourth place. Four points from four games is a poor return from the opening two weeks of fixtures, particularly in a group where Spain’s sublime talents serve only to amplify the absolute ordinariness of the other teams.

The insipid performance against Lithuania, a team that was there to be beaten, and Craig Levein’s risible selection against Czech Republic meant that even the positives from last night were laced with lingering thoughts of “if only…”

Not something that the manager himself was prepared to entertain as he stormed out of a Sky interview. But that doesn’t change the fact that the rest of the country were thinking it.

“If only…” Maybe the real tragedy of this latest gallant failure was that it highlighted just how poor we have been up until the fightback began last night.

Some pride might have been restored. But it’s difficult to escape the thought that the damage to this campaign has already been done.

* Spain were a delight to watch at times. There seems to be a devastating combination of speed and patience that leaves them looking unplayable at times. For large periods in the first hour it looked like two teams thrown together on the same pitch who were playing different sports.

And then they were undone by the combined talents of Kenny Miller and Steven Naismith. Spain tend to provide the aesthetics but maybe it’s the unpredictability of the game that offers its real beauty.

* David Weir can never be allowed to retire. At some point his body is going to force him to call it a day. A worry, then, that its Stephen McManus who looks the centre back in most desperate need of being replaced.

* Allan McGregor is a difficult chap to like. Easy to respect him as a footballer though with performances like that. With Craig Gordon waiting in the wings McGregor’s performances against the Czechs and again last night have at least proved we’ve got two goalkeepers we can rely on.