Friday, July 04, 2014

Going for Gauld

Losing a young talent from the Scottish game is not normally a reason for rejoicing.

But Ryan Gauld's decision to leave Dundee United for Sporting Lisbon is surely an exceptional case.

Not for Gauld the well worn path of the lower reaches of the English Premier League or the English Championship.

And not for Gauld the irresistible lure of Glasgow.

Instead he gets the chance to further develop his already abundant skills in a completely different football environment.

It's a strangely expansive choice from a Scottish youngster and an entirely refreshing one.

The road to superstardom is rarely smooth. If he was a reality TV contestant Gauld would acknowledge this as being nothing more than the start of his journey.

But if that journey is successful his stay in Portugal could bring huge benefits to a national side that is already improving under Gordon Strachan.

A huge opportunity for Gauld himself, a potentially huge bonus for Scotland and, for Dundee United, a multi-million pound windfall and vindication that their youth policy can deliver huge dividends.

If this transfer is unlikely to become a template that all Scottish youngster will aspire to, it should at least act as inspiration for other clubs to strain every muscle into developing youngsters with the technical gifts to interest clubs across Europe. And, as an added bonus, that means they'll also be developing youngsters with the market value to make our clubs far more sustainable.

From a youngster overcoming the narrow horizons of so many of his predecessors to a Scottish club enjoying a whopping win in Europe.

Last night Aberdeen overcame the usual Scottish angst of an early start to European qualifying by knocking five goals past Latvia's Daugava Riga in front of over 15,000 fans at Pittodrie.

With the Latvian league well underway and the Scottish Premiership over a month from kick off the normal excuses for underperforming were in place.

Aberdeen ignored them with some style.

The second leg should be a formality but will hopefully allow Derek McInnes to build up even more momentum before a clash with FC Groningen in the next qualifying round.

The World Cup might be going on without us. We might have lost one of our most talented young players to a foreign league.

But the last few days have given Scottish football at least a couple of reasons to be cheerful.

Small steps for sure. But maybe, just maybe the "New Firm" are ready to breathe life into the game again.

It might not be long before we're partying like its 1983.

2014 World Cup: Welcome back

There was a moment, a fleeting moment, after Belgium v USA.

Just a moment when I thought, "know what, a couple of days off might be just what I need."

Somehow Belgium and the United States turned the final last 16 game into an exhilarating, exhausting delight.

Fantastic to watch. But even neutrals like me were left knackered by the relentless commitment of it all.

Had the second stage matches lost a little of the steam that Brazil 2014 had been building from almost the first kick of the ball?

Certainly the goal average dropped. And while some of the games were tight, the eagle-eyed punter on will have noted that form asserted itself - all the group winners progressed to the quarter finals for the first time since the advent of a 32 team tournament.

And yet. There at the last Belgium and the US were battering each other with any and every ounce of energy they had. Tim Howard making more saves that any other World Cup goalkeeper. The US pulling a reverse Alamo on the Belgian goal in a riveting but ultimately futile second half of extra time.

So I felt like I needed a break. A feeling that lasted right through until I woke up on Wednesday and mournfully realised the next match was more than 48 hours away.

2014 World Cup, the Scottish Football Blog

The wait's almost over though. And it looks like being worth it.

France v Germany.

Brazil v Colombia.

Didier Deschamps v Joachim Low.

Neymar v James Rodríguez.

Few people would think you daft if you said the winner of either of these games could win the tournament. But I'd defy you to predict who that might be with any confidence.

Colombia have impressed but they've impressed so far in games that don't carry the same pressure that will come with playing Brazil in Brazil during a World Cup.

And Brazil have kept finding ways to win despite being under the constant pressure of being Brazil at a World Cup held in Brazil.

France, with the hissy fit, toys out of the pram nonsense of 2010 long behind them, have progressed pretty serenely. 10 goals scored and just two conceded in four games.

Germany have scored nine and conceded three. But they needed extra time to find a way past Algeria and are now contending with an outbreak of 'flu.

Brazil, of course, remain favourites to overcome Colombia and to lift the trophy.

But I'm as gloriously confused as I have been since the start.

Will Neymar, home advantage and a determination to believe in destiny be enough for Brazil?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Colombia have often looked inspired as a team. James Rodriguez has rarely looked anything else. The current top scorer against the current favourites.

The natural narrative still suggests this is a World Cup for Brazil to win. But tonight we'll see three other teams with their own destiny to believe in.

It's tome to be amazed, enthralled and knackered all over again.