SCOTLAND’S bid to qualify for the Euro 2020 Finals was on a downhill slope after six minutes with nine games and 84 minutes still to play in Group I.
Six minutes was all it took for Yurly Pertsukh to spring the suspect Scots’ offside trap and nonchalantly loft the ball over the head of debutant keeper Scott Bain for Kazakhstan’s opening goal in the Astana Stadium on March 21 this year.
An aghast Alex McLeish and a tormented Tartan Army winced as the international team kicked off their campaign in the most lamentable way possible against a nation rated 117th in the FIFA rankings and with only three wins from their previous 30 games – against Andorra, Latvia and the Faroe Islands.
Scotland were about to be added to that sad little list.
Incredibly, the Kazakhs doubled their advantage in the 10th minute when the Scots defence fell asleep and Yan Vorogovskiy nipped in to score from close range.
Just to pile on the misery, Baktiyar Zaynutdinov notched a third and the visitors’ only reply in 90 mind-numbing minutes was a solitary shot on target from Scott Armstrong.
It would be fair to say, at that precise moment, Scotland’s quest to play in their first major finals in 22 agonising years was in jeopardy.
We had tried to launch into a brave, new international era from a platform consisting of quicksand.
EYES WIDE SHUT…Steve Clarke relives the four-goal defeat against the Belgians.
And now, after a change of manager and the introduction of fresh players, we have just completed three defeats on the bounce and you don’t require Sherlock Holmes qualities to fathom that such a dreadful sequence does not merit rewards.
In fact, it leaves you second bottom of the section just above San Marino, officially the worst team in global football.
Goalkeeper David Marshall has been the team’s best player by a mile in the losses to Russia, 2-1 on Friday evening, and 4-0 against Belgium last night.
Both ties were at Hampden and that tells its own pathetic story. Home advantage means zilch these days.
There is still the play-off option for Steve Clarke’s men, of course. The back door to the competition could swing open for Scotland next March.
Or will another banana skin appear to send us skidding once more into international oblivion?
Hopes springs eternal, as they say. So, given a quirk of geography, Scottish fans will beat their chests, rally to the cause and the Tartan Army will do their bit.
You can’t help from pondering, though, after such a horrible, wretched succession of unacceptable results.
Are we just a nation of hopeless optimists?
Well, dear reader, what do you think? Your views are welcomed. You can find us at:
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