Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scotland v Brazil: The Preview Post

Scottish football blog Brazil v Scotland preview
The chosen few:

McGregor, Hutton, G Caldwell, Berra, Crainey, Adam, Brown, Morrison, McArthur, Whittaker, Miller

The eleven men chosen to rage against history, to turn football's established order on its head.

The bravehearts charged with leading Scotland to a first ever victory against Brazil.

Alright. So that's all a nonsense really.

Yes, the game is capturing imaginations for a number of reasons.

The glamour of Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

A chance to dream that Scotland, at best solid proletarians of world football recently, can upset Brazil, the game's perennial aristocrats.

All of it's enough to get the Tartan Army on the march, their tunes reverberating through London town itself.

Still a meaningless friendly though.

Obviously it beats playing the Faroe Islands. But there's little substance to it.

Scotland are simply the latest hired hands shipped in to provide the padding in Brazil's apparently open ended world tour.

And, the cynic in me says, chosen to give Brazil a boost, the chance to gain some confidence as flat track bullies.

Because this Brazilian side remains a work in progess, a team that has lost their last couple of games.

But even as an auld curmudgeon like me tries to rain on tomorrow's parade, it's impossible not to feel a frisson of something.

This remains Brazil. The Samba superstars, the jogo bonita brigade, the classy Canarinho.

So, once more, the hope, optimism and excitement build.

There's even been a hint of belief growing around this Scotland squad.

By rediscovering a certain enterprising passion and resilience whilst being quite obviously outclassed by Spain and then enjoying a spot of flat track bullying of our own against inferior opposition, some of the damage of that 4-6-0 and Liechtenstein's Hampden visit has been repaired.

Fickle bunch us Scots.

Yet there have been some signs of progress. Whether an examination by Brazil, even a developing Brazil, is the best way to discover how much progress remains to be seen.

Always remember though, you've got to beat the best to be the best.

Or avoid massive humiliation against the fifth best to be not as bad as might have been feared when you played without a striker against Czech Republic.

Craig Levein has chosen a team that might have been guessed at by the squad he had at his disposal.

It's likely to be the 4-1-4-1 that almost prospered against Spain. Kenny Miller, captain again, is the one.

In the centre of defence a pairing of Gary Caldwell and Christophe Berra might raise some groans but in a squad of increased options Levein remains faced with a narrowing field of contenders at centre half.

I'm interested to see how the much discussed Charlie Adam fares. By now we should all be aware of Adam's qualities - Dani Alves was moved to mention them in an STV interview the other day - but we've still to properly see them for Scotland.

In a game where we're likely to lose out in both possession and territory Adam's exceptional passing and Miller's exeptional workrate could - should - combine as a valuable outlet.

And that's important, because using this formation we have to be capable of giving teams some pause for thought. Preferably before we go 2-0 down.

This is a strange beast of a match. If we play exceptionally well and get a result it will be both remarkable and a massive confidence boost.

If we play well and lose narrowly we'll be able to fall back to the default, gallant losers role we seem to occupy with worryingly natural ease.

If we get a total doing - and that could involve us playing well, alright or very badly - then some of the rebuilt confidence will take a knock. Having picked ourselves off the ropes and almost got on to the front foot we'll be rocked backwards again.

Which is why I disagree that this is a win-win. If the worst happens then it's a lose-lose.

I steal myself to banish such unpatriotic, unworthy thoughts.

Let's hope that this game will continue Levein's evolution as an international manager.

Let's hope that his players will not freeze when faced with the glamour of their surroundings, the fame of their opponents, the hype of the media and the fans.

We're playing what would now appear to be our chosen formation against top class teams. So it's up to the players to prove that it works.

Here's hoping.

Prediction? For fear of being accused of traitorous tendencies, I'll leave the last word to Craig Levein:

"I haven't rushed round the bookies to put a bet on." (BBC)

Quite.