Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Belgium v Scotland: Defying the odds

In one of the many radio discussions in the aftermath of Scotland's damaging defeat against Wales it was suggested that we usually pull off one big result in each qualifying game.

A trip to Belgium to play the group leaders would be that sort of game.

It would also chime perfectly with the idea of Scottish football that still just about survives in the popular imagination, of a national team that fails when they're expected to thrive and thrives when they're expected to fail.

The experience of recent qualifying campaigns means that idea of Scotland can no longer stand up to scrutiny.

Liechtenstein twice, Lithuania, Macedonia, Iceland twice. They are the biggest games we've been winning lately.

For the last "big" result we must look back to the qualifiers for Euro 2008 and those two victories over France in 2006 and 2007.

Captain Darren Fletcher has that Scotland can "definitely" beat Belgium tonight.

And we can, of course we can. In a one off match anything can happen.

It's just that there is no evidence that this squad led by this manager is ever going to enjoy that sort of victory.

Having built a squad cowed into timidity because of his acceptance of what he sees as our limitations, Levein has little right to expect the players to come roaring out in defiance in a game he needs to win to have any chance of keeping his job.

He's written his own script. Now he'll need to sit with the rest of us and see how a team whose weaknesses he's inflated and whose strengths he's nullified fares against an extravagantly talented team which is finally, in this qualifying campaign, getting the results its individual components deserve.

Scotland go into this game at 8/1 to win with the hosts at 4/11.

You need to plough through eight Belgian players - Christian Benteke, Kevin Mirallas, Ilombe Mboyo, Jelle Vossen, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Moussa Dembele, Dries Mertens - before you find Steven Fletcher and Kenny Miller on the first goalscorer list, the pair of them joined by Nacer Chadli at 9/1.

That alone suggests that notions of "keeping it tight" for as long as possible is going to be a hell of an ask.

Can we be inspired by those French games? Ride our luck, defend like dervishes, find the inspiration to take and hold a lead?

A 1-0 win for Scotland at 16/1?

How I'd love that to look like a good bet.

But I can't convince myself that it does.

We have to hope that Scotland's players will have been stung by Friday night, a sense, however misguided, of injustice and a desire to save the manager they profess to have so much faith in.

Ladbrokes Game On!But that would be to discount the inspiration Belgium can take from the momentum they've built up, home advantage and the scent of blood from a reeling Scotland.

A 3-0 Belgium win is priced at 8/1. That's the same as any Scotland win.

Depressingly a thumping of that sort looks more likely than even the narrowest of Scottish wins.

I can't bring myself to bet against Scotland.

So I'll probably plump for 0-0 at 10/1.

But I'll do so with the heavy heart of a punter who knows that even when he sets out not to avoid defeat this is a Scotland manager destined to fail.

All odds from Ladbrokes #gameon

Always remembering www.gambleaware.co.uk