THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

3 September ~ An unfamiliar sensation is taking hold of a significant proportion of Scotland fans, and not just because of our recent victory at the Homeless World Cup. At first glance everything seems wearily familiar: four points from four Euro 2012 qualifying games (mostly thanks to our 96th-minute winner against Liechtenstein), a FIFA ranking of 55th and the continued heart-stopping presence of Gary Caldwell in defence. All while our clubs lose in Europe. Next up are the Czech Republic. So why do we feel cautiously optimistic?

Admittedly it's mostly because the Czechs aren't quite as formidable as they were a few years ago. But it's also because we're showing tentative signs of improvement. A dramatic 3-2 defeat to Spain, a friendly victory over a reasonably strong Danish side and a respectable performance in the world-famous Carling Nations Cup have all provided the heady excitement of slight encouragement.

And we've suddenly got depth. Not necessarily strength in depth, and definitely not in all positions, but we now know what it feels like to have choice, particularly in midfield, with promising young players like Robert Snodgrass, Graham Dorrans and Barry Bannan competing against the likes of Scott Brown and James Morrison to accompany Steven Naismith, Charlie Adam and Darren Fletcher. Ironically, it may be the financial weakness of the SPL that's helping the national side. Clubs are being forced to develop young talent and more and more Scottish players are moving to – and developing in – England.

If we continue to play as surprisingly competently as we have been since that classically Scottish heroic defeat to Spain, there's a gathering feeling that we needn't fear anyone (other than Spain, of course). Even dropping to the fourth pot of seeds for World Cup qualifying has demonstrated how little there is to choose between so many mid-ranking European teams, with our draw no tougher than usual.

So it's all in our hands. We can win our next three games (Lithuania visit Hampden after the Czechs, then we're away to Liechtenstein). Nine points would edge us ahead of the Czech Republic in the race for the play-off position. So put your money on Scotland 0 Czech Republic 0, the inevitable heartbreaking result that will effectively put us out and make us feel extremely foolish for ever daring to succumb to seductive cautious optimism. Mark Poole the wee man

Comments (4)
Comment by Liffrok 2011-09-03 19:54:08

So how did that go then?

Comment by markrpoole 2011-09-03 21:01:03

Pretty similar to the concluding line of my article, unfortunately. But at least we scored twice again.

Comment by TheRedMax 2011-09-05 12:53:21

There was a stomach-churning inevitability about the climax to Saturdays game. But although progress is being made, our back 4 is woefully short of international class players in order to qualify for the knockout stages of the Euros or World Cup.
Looking around the SPL and the Scotland U21 side, I'm struggling to see anyone coming through that might change that situation.

Comment by SoccerLimey 2011-09-05 14:14:59

I haven't watched scotland play since the Brazil game of last year, but it's clear they need a new approach. We know the talent pool isn't the best but they look confused in the build up, as if they don't know where the next pass is going. This comes from weak coaching. I think Levein needs to be replaced by a more tactically aware successor.

It's a shame about Saturday, but in fairness, I don't think they deserved to win and I happen to think both refereeing decisions at the end could have gone either way.

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