It was obvious from off that we were not in the same league as the visiting stars. A look at the team sheet offered an idea of the task that faced Strachan’s team. Opposite our list of clubs – 3 from Celtic, 3 from Norwich together with contributions from Cardiff, Blackburn, Wigan and Wolves were some giants of the game; 2 from Atletico Madrid, 2 from Spurs, 2 from Zenit, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester United, Aston Villa and Porto.
When the teams lined up for the anthems another difference was apparent, man for man they were taller and it soon became clear that they had an athleticism that was lacking in the team in blue. After the game Strachan referred to their great “physicality” and pointed out that he can’t make our players bigger or stronger – what can we do about genetics? They spent the first half hour passing the ball in our half of the pitch and it was no surprise that they took the half time lead.
To say that the opening goal came at the wrong time for us seems obvious yet it arrived just as we were beginning to grow in confidence having survived the opening spell without loss. Brown’s 30 yard effort whistled by on the wrong side of the post and it seemed to give our players a boost. The loss that followed was a cruel reminder of the strength of the opposition.
As the big Belgian support celebrated at the end of the game and well into the night, the consensus grew that Scotland are making steady progress. The hopeful long ball has gone and the notion that we should pass our way up the park seems to have taken root. It may take a few years but at least there are signs that we’re moving in the right direction.