No Defence for Scotland Boss
It is hugely ironic that a man so obsessed with defending can offer no defence of his own. On Friday evening, Craig Levein sunk Scottish football to new depths with his incredible 4-6-0 formation in Prague in a match which saw Scotland lose the game 1-0 and suffer a major blow to their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012.
Let us put this into perspective – Scotland were not playing the Czech squads of the Euro 1996 final or Euro 2004 semi finals, featuring the likes of Pavel Nedved, Milan Baros, Karol Poborsky and Vladimir Smicer. They were playing a team who finished 5th in their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup, who were on their 4th manager since their shock exit to Turkey at Euro 2008 and who (despite playing at home) were outnumbered by Scottish supporters. Their last match was a home defeat by Lithuania and their stock in world football has never been lower.
Yet astonishingly, Levein opted to play without a single striker and instead play exclusively for a 0-0 draw. This is despite main forward Kenny Miller being in the form of his life and despite fielding a midfield almost exclusively of players who ply their trade in the English Premier League. Had Scotland approached the game in the correct manner, a victory was very much there for the taking and three points could have taken us a huge step closer to Euro 2012.
Sure, Levein was without a number of players he’d have loved to have called upon such as James McFadden, Scott Brown and Lee McCulloch. But the quality was still there – Darren Fletcher is a key man in the Manchester United squad, James Morrison a regular for high flying West Brom and Graeme Dorrans the subject of a £6m summer transfer bid from West Ham United.
Levein can moan about lack of resources all he wants, but he need look no further than Northern Ireland as an example of what can be achieved with limited resources. The Irish achieved another fantastic result on Friday, holding 2006 World Champions Italy to a draw at Windsor Park, but being unfortunate not to win the game.
While the defeat in Prague is a major setback to Scotland’s qualification hopes, their Euro 2012 dreams are by no means dead. But the question must be asked – even if Scotland do qualify for the finals, what is the point? Their standing in the international game has been reduced even lower than the likes of San Marino and Malta, who at least have the decency to play with a token football.
Despite being a Scotsman, I was pleased when Czech Republic scored their goal because if Levein’s tactics worked and caught on, it would be the end of football as an entertainment sport. We all want to see our team reach a major finals – but not at any cost.
Written by Colin Hill, a sports writer who blogs about .