Friday, September 3, 2010

Scotland kicked off their Euro 2012 qualification campaign this evening with a nervy 90 minutes in Kaunas against Lithuania.

In a group where we're pitched in against World champions Spain, a second placed finish and a spot in the playoffs is the position that we realistically have to deliver. Anything less can only be viewed as a massive failure.

For Craig Levein, it was his first competitive statement of intent to the Scotland fans and the rest of the group as to what kind of Scotland team we are going to see under the new national team boss.

It would appear that apart from looking a bit better organised, not a lot has changed. The rest of the group aren't exactly going to be shaking in their boots.

The first half provided very few nerve jangling breaks from the home side, none more so than when David Weir was felled off the ball, allowing Saulius Mikoliunas to run on goal and force Allan McGregor into a sprawling save.

That was against the run of play though and the home side looked to pose little danger apart from on counter attacks, especially if Scotland over committed themselves forward as the match went on. Scotland were the far more dominant side and looking dangerous at spells, but ultimately lacking quality and decent support for Kenny Miller.

I can't really remember seeing a half of football when a team was happy enough to commit so many fouls and free kicks on the edge of their box, but that seemed to be Lithuania's tactics. Maybe they knew that the quality of Scotland's set pieces would be woefully poor.

If they could only have taken a couple of these chances, a more relaxed second half would have been in store. If ever there was a game when James McFadden, who was on the bench, could have had a stormer it was this.

So scoreless at the half and the fear was still there that this could be yet another diasterous start to a qualifying campaign. A draw wouldn't be the end of the world but would make things tougher than they needed to be. A defeat would be a killer blow right from the off and hard to recover from.

Scotland started the second half fantastically but again just seemed to lack that vital bit of quality that could turn the game. Lithuania started to come into the game more and were breaking quickly, especially on the left, but still happy to concede free kicks and swamp Scottish attackers en masse.

A few good chances for Scotland were ruefully missed, Kenny Miller missed a great one which he should have buried, and it was starting to look obvious that we were going to have another blank display when so much more was hoped for and expected.

And so it came to pass.

A point from the first away game, against a team very much there for the taking, isn't great. We can only hope that the Czechs stutter there as well and we dominate the qualifying campaign in our Hampden matches. It might not even matter. We're fighting for a playoff spot where every single point lost can be vital. That's two gone already, so even a second placed finish might mean nothing.

Plus points were the organisation and strength of the defence and some of the midfield work, but we so badly need some quality, especially in the striking department. An Ally McCoist style poacher who can pounce and bury the few chances that we get.

Our set piece work from free kicks and corners is shockingly bad for the international level.

It's hard to admit that we just don't have the quality in our squad currently. At least they can bounce back with a win on Tuesday against Liechenstein to hopefully bolster the confidence, especially of our strikers.

New boss, new regime, same old Scotland. Disappointing stuff.

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