Friday, October 09, 2015

Inglorious Failure

And so it's all over. Last night Scotland played Poland in their penultimate qualifying match, while the Republic of Ireland played Germany. The assumption was that Germany would beat RoI, meaning that if Scotland could just beat Poland then we'd only need to beat Gibraltar on Sunday and we'd be third in the group - and get at least a play-off place.

Naturally, therefore, we went and conceded a goal in the third minute of the match. And then, having somehow (and probably undeservedly) managed to turn the match around, we then managed to lose a second goal with the last kick of the game, and so snatched a crushing 2-2 draw from the jaws of victory.

Though it didn't really matter. The Republic of Ireland managed a surprise win over Germany, meaning that it was out of our hands anyway - even a victory would have left us relying on RoI also beating Poland in their last match (in Poland). Which isn't impossible, but seems unlikely - especially since this is Scotland we're talking about.

But let's face it: the RoI result is an irrelevance. The damage was done by our utter failure to defend a (pretty poor) free kick in the last few seconds of the game last night, and also, most especially, in our failure in Georgia. Those failures cost us five points, and the difference between second in the group and a poor fourth.

So where do we go from here?

Well, I suspect there's likely to be a clamour for a new manager, and indeed the pundits on the radio last night seemed to think that Gordon Strachan might well choose to walk away himself at this point. But I really hope that that doesn't happen, and that he chooses to stay on.

Because the truth is that Scotland were abject under our previous two managers, and GS had actually worked wonders in turning them around. And while this campaign ended in a poor failure, it has actually been a vast improvement over what went before - Scotland actually had the dubious distinction of being the first team who couldn't qualify for Brazil 2014, so to keep our challenge alive until the second-last game is a big step forward.

(And, anyway, it's not like there is a long list of potential successors. Again, the usual question: if you get rid of the manager, who do you get in his place who would be better? I can't see any answer to that.)

So I very much hope GS stays on to continue the job. I do wish, though, that I could say I was hopeful that next time would be different... but I'm just not. Simply put, we don't have, and aren't producing, players of the quality required in the numbers that are required. I'm not sure there is any manager who could take us to Russia 2018.

Maybe we really should start lobbying for the amalgamation of the various leagues in the UK, and the institution then of a true UK football team. After all, if Scotland isn't going to be independent, then we're one country. And if we're one country, why do we have four teams?

(Depressingly, in order to find the link for that post, I read back through my posts tagged 'football' only to find that I predicted we'd miss Euro 2016 way back in 2010. Sometimes, I hate being right.)

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