Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scotland v Brazil: Learning The Hard Way

Neymar starred in Brazil's 2-0 win over Scotland
Comprehensively outclassed and the day marred by an accusation of racism.

Scotland have had better experiences than their trip to London on Sunday.

Having endured 90 minutes of pressure it could surely only be the most masochistic of Scotland fan who would stick to the party line that a glamour clash against Brazil is always a joy to behold.

The way in which 19 year old Neymar provided the focal point as a depleted Brazil waltzed past Scotland served only to underline how small our progress - wins against the Faroes and Northern Ireland - has been in the grand scheme of the world game.

Of course Brazil are in football's stratosphere, Scotland are its honest journeymen. We're not supposed to beat them. 2-0 will allow the record books to show that we avoided annihilation.

From the Scotland camp came the expected messages of lessons being learned, of hard work paying off.

But this was turgid stuff from Scotland.

Kenny Miller, as tireless as ever, touched the ball on seven times in the first half, his isolation almost complete.

Charlie Adam was honest about his own failure to perform. If Steven Whittaker is given to nightmares then it must be expected this his slumbers will be interrupted by Dani Alves in the coming weeks.

It's unfair to pick out individuals. As Brazil coach Mano Menezes said at the end, this is a Scottish team that relies on collective hard work. The succeed together and they fail together.

The only positive to draw was that Scotland didn't completely fall apart as the Brazilians ran them ragged.

Scotland's plan was to work hard, to press and harry. Yet even in this the temporary hosts provided the most exhilarating display.

When Scotland sought temporary reprieve by training to hold the ball at the back or using Allan McGregor as an outlet, the yellow shirts swarmed into the final third.

Finding himself rushed, his defenders and midfielders marked, the goalkeeper could only go long or wide. Possession was immediately handed back.

It was a study in combining ability with hard work. The sobering lesson was one that many Scotland fans learnt years ago - our own brand of toil and labour combined with technical inferiority is increasingly impotent in the modern game.

All of which is probably nothing new.

So perhaps the most immediate positive to take from it all was Levein's assurance that we won't play a tougher friendly.

And, when all is said in done, it was only a friendly. It could be a costly one though if it combines with other results to send our ranking plummeting.

A game that underlined our weaknesses might also have made it even more difficult for us to qualify for the 2016 World Cup in Brazil.

I hope the SFA feel suitably comfortable with that as they count the cash they got for showing up at the Emirates.

> The racism allegation: As I understand it the booing of Neymar centred on what the fans saw as play acting.

A banana was thrown. The video I have seen suggests it came from the Brazil end, although footage throughout the game seemed to show a fairly wide mingling of fans.

The Tartan Army, since backed by the SFA, have issued vehement denials.

The truth is there was an idiot, from somewhere, in the ground whose ignorance cast a shadow on the day, a day that should have been celebrated for Neymar's performance. And that's deeply regrettable.