Scotlands tour of the Far East ended with
a morale-boosting 4-0 victory over a Hong Kong League
X1 after defeats by South Africa (2-0) and South
Korea (4-1). The final match isnt classed as a full
international but it was a useful outing for Berti Vogts
side and allows them to return home with a victory under
their belts for the first time since the German took charge.
I suspect that was the intention all along, though there is
no doubt that Vogts was shaken by the performance against
the Koreans and disappointed by the result against South Africa.
FIFA (and UEFA) have had a lot of criticism of their
ranking system sometimes justified, Colombia are
currently ranked ahead of Italy, Spain and Portugal
for example. But in general the rankings are sound. And so
far Scotland, under Vogts, have played and lost to teams ranked
well above us. Away to the reigning World Champions France
and co-hosts South Korea we were soundly spanked.
The home loss to Nigeria was closer but the result
was never really in doubt. For this writer the most intriguing
fixture was the match with South Africa. Here we were
up against a side that had qualified for the World Cup Finals
but, ranked in the mid-30s in the world, not one to be troubling
Asian hotels with requests for an extended stay. Much like
Scotland used to be in fact.
We played them on neutral territory and lost 2-0, though the
free kick award preceding the first goal was debatable and
the second came deep in injury time as the Scots were battling
for the equaliser many considered would have been a fairer
reflection of the game. My own view is that South Africa deserved
to win but that the 1-0 scoreline would have been a more accurate
account of the match.
So what are the negatives of the Vogts reign so far? That
we have been beaten by teams that are better than we are?
I dont think so. That demoralisation can set in following
a string of defeats? Arguable. But coming home after a 4-0
win is much more satisfying and there is logic in the way
these fixtures were agreed. Never mind that the opposition
were modest. So too are the Faeroes and Lithuania.
I think wed all settle for 4-0 away from home in those
There are plenty of pluses to come out of this tour once we
set aside the mentality that treats even friendly matches
as if they were cup finals. The players have been together
for a while and must have bonded as individuals and as a team.
A lot of players have received a chance to show what they
Some individuals, notably Maurice Ross, Scott Dobie and
Lee Wilkie have demonstrated that they have the capability
to play in international football. Though I confess that I
am unhappy that players who dont get a regular game
with their clubs are being selected for Scotland. One would
hope that once the Euro 2004 qualifiers get under way,
that Vogts would pick players who are performing for their
clubs first team every Saturday
If Vogts can get his regulars back, expect the starting line-up
for the next match a Hampden friendly with
Denmark in August to be not a million miles away
from this 3-5-2 eleven. Sullivan, Dailly, Matteo, Weir,
Lambert, Ferguson, Burley, Ross, Gemmill, Dobie, McCann.
Of course, we can all pick our own line-ups and I would drop
Weir, and play Ross and Wilkie in a back
four, replace Scot Gemmill (who for one fleeting
moment in Hong Kong played like his father unlike most
of the time when he plays like his mother) with Colin
Cameron, and partner Dobie with the overlooked
Winters omission remains strange. As do
the absences of Gavin Rae and Gary Holt who
was discarded after just twenty minutes in Paris. Derek
McInnes will surely come into the reckoning too while
Don Hutchison cant get fit soon enough. Add in
Stephen Hughes and hope for a return to the form that
made reputations for Kenny Miller and Mark Burchill.
Mix that up with a transfer to the Premiership for Gareth
Williams and the continuing consistency of Robbie Stockdale
and there is the outline of a squad, which should, even
in present circumstances, finish second in our group and give
us a chance in the play-offs.
Kevin Kyle, Michael Stewart, Gary Caldwell, et al can
remain with the under-21s for the time being until they begin
to hold down first team places
One really worrying area is in goal. Rab Douglas was
given his chance on the tour and made the kind of handling
errors he could get away with at this level but which would
be seriously punished in major competitions. Put it this way,
if he produced his Scotland performances for Celtic,
he wouldnt last long at Parkhead.
Its disappointing because we really needed
Douglas to do well and put some pressure on Neil Sullivan.
Paul Gallacher was given a run-out for the last fifteen
minutes in Hong Kong but he too has a lot to do to prove he
is ready for international football. Maybe its time
to blood Neil Alexander for 45 minutes against Denmark
and see what he has to offer.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world focuses on the World Cup
as we press our noses up against the shop window, eyeing the
goodies inside with envy. This is only the second time Scotland
have missed out since 1970 but its the first time since
then that weve missed out when THEY havent.
Old songs are going to have to have new versions.
For Sweden: "Om du hatar det javla engelsk
For Argentina: "Si usted odia los ingleses
de mierda aplauden sus manos"
For Nigeria: Well, seeing as English is the official
language of Nigeria, lets just say it starts: if
and ends with clap your
Just when you think it cant get any worse,
the performance by the Scotland team in South Korea
proves it can. Scotlands 4-1 loss wasnt just a
defeat, it was a humiliation. True, we were without our only
two truly international-class players, Barry Ferguson and
Paul Lambert (and by international-class, I mean
players that top countries would consider having in their
team). We were also missing experienced regulars like
Craig Burley and Neil McCann. And of course
Don Hutchison is injured.
Thats almost half a team but even so, the promise showed
against Nigeria (and didnt their victory in
Dublin show that our Pittodrie result against them was certainly
no humiliation) wasnt built on in Busan.
There are a couple of other mitigating factors. The heat,
for one. The fact that there was no time for our players to
get acclimatised. Or indeed to adjust to the time difference.
Even so, this was a deeply disturbing performance.
Of course, if South Korea do the same to England and
France in their next warm-up matches, or go on to
reach the last eight in the World Cup, then that opinion
will have to be revised.Somehow, though, I dont think
Ill be stretching for a pen to write a retraction.
The South Koreans looked a competent team, no more. Scotland
gave away too much of the ball, were on the back foot for
almost the entire game and the scoreline, embarrassing as
it was, could have been a whole lot worse.
So what can Berti Vogts have learned from his three
games in charge? That we are far worse than he could possibly
have imagined, for starters. He is undoubtedly doing the right
thing in throwing players in at the deep end what other
options are available? Hes also right to have taken
this tour. The more games under the squads belts, the
better. But managers like Alex Ferguson and Bobby
Robson arent stupid. There are reasons why players
like Michael Stewart and Gary Caldwell are not
first-team regulars or are farmed out on loan. The main one
being theyre not ready. And if theyre not ready
for their clubs, then theyre not ready for their country.
Im not trying to knock the youngsters if theyre
good enough, theyre old enough as far as Im concerned
but if their club bosses reckon theyre not the
finished article yet, then the international stage should
wait a bit longer too.
That said, it was the experienced players who were most at
fault in Busan. Christian Dailly, captaining the side,
was anonymous. David Weir was at fault for the first
goal. And as for Scot Gemmill, well I tend to go along
with what guest correspondent Jim Hamill wrote here
a few weeks ago whatever else he may have inherited
from his father, it wasnt his footballing ability. Allan
Johnston looked way out of his depth. There was no one
to put his foot in and win the ball like Lambert and no one
to spray passes around like Ferguson.
Neil Sullivan couldnt be blamed for any of the
goals. Scott Dobie took his only chance to score but
none of the strikers can really be judged, as the service
they received was abysmal. A pass mark for Maurice Ross
who proved he can operate on either flank the one
bonus for Vogts from this game.
Is there any hope? There always is. Consider these words:
Since internationals began, Scotland has never been
so deep in gloom. All sorts of theories have been put forward
for our woeful series of failures, but, in actual fact, we
have been short of players of the old standard.
Those words could have been written this morning. In fact
they were penned by Jonathan Oldbuck in the Sunday
Chronicle Football Annual in 1948!
Within a year Scotland were celebrating one of their greatest
Wembley triumphs. Similar sentiments were expressed
after the 9-3 defeat by England in 1961. Within two years,
Scotland had beaten England twice and won 6-2 away to Spain.
Maybe, just maybe, one of Bertis babes is the new Baxter.
Or a second Denis Law. Who knows? This time next week
we could be celebrating a hat trick against South Africa.
Or watching the RAF Red Arrows (Porcine Division) doing
a celebratory fly-past outside the bedroom window.
It has been a long time since a Scotland
defeat has produced such a positive reaction, as was the
case after the 2-1 loss to Nigeria at Pittodrie.
Yes, we lost, but there was much to be proud of in our performance.
For the first time in seemingly eons, we had a go. You know
what would have happened under Craig Brown. The trusty
old warhorses would have been saddled up once again as Scotland
put in a defensive shift and hoped for a breakaway or a set
Under Berti Vogts, the new-look team actually ventured
into the opposition half. There were more attempts on goal
in this one match than in the entire World Cup qualifying
campaign. Or so it seemed.
But theres no sense in getting carried away. It was
still a defeat. Against decent opposition, true. But Nigeria
are not the world-beaters some sections of the press have
painted them as. The rebuilding process will take time
a lot of time. Taking the players off on a summer tour is
an excellent step. It will enable them to bond as players
and blend as a team.
But we must be prepared to face some bad results en route.
The short-term aim must be to secure second place in our Euro
2004 group and go into the play-offs with a chance of
success. Even with the limited means at our disposal we should
be capable of that. Long-term, the 2006 World Cup finals
are the objective. Thats why Vogts was brought in. He
must be given the chance to get us there.
But already carping voices can be heard. Suggestions that
Vogts should be dismissed after two games are ludicrous. Sure,
some of the mans selections have been curious. Thats
what happens when you appoint someone who isnt steeped
in the poisonous bigotry of the domestic game. Is that a bad
Here at scottishleague.net, we have opinions too. Why select
OConnor of Hibs and ignore McFadden
of Motherwell if the object is to pick a young SPL
striker and blood him in the international arena? Why omit
Robbie Winters far and away the most prolific
Scots-born striker playing in domestic football? Gavin
Rae? Derek McInnes? The list may not be endless but at
least we are now talking about the ins and outs of the squad.
Craig Browns squads picked themselves.
This is the first time in many years that the selection of
the national side has actually motivated the fan in the street.
Interest in the team is growing. Over 20,000 at Pittodrie
is testimony to that. Long may it continue.
And in that vein, one major talking point is Bertis
adoption of the granny clause. Its nothing
new. Neil Sullivan and Matt Elliott have been
regulars in the past few years. Going back a generation, when
eligibility was restricted to parental nationality, argument
raged over the merits of Bob Wilson and Bruce Rioch.
Our position is that while we would dearly like every player
that pulls on a dark blue jersey to be Scottish born and bred,
we are not in a situation where that is a practical option.
As Vogts said, nine of the French team that thumped
Scotland 5-0 were born outside of France. In the past the
great Alfredo Di Stefano played international football
for THREE different countries. Eusebio was born
in Mozambique (then a Portuguese colony).
More recently Jack Charlton skilfully used the rules
to turn the Irish Republic from a backwater side into
one of the most respected in the game. If Berti Vogts can
do the same for Scotland you wont find any complaints
We have just two caveats. Players brought in must be better
than those they displace. And they must WANT to play
for Scotland. Duncan Ferguson is as Scottish as
they come. But the man has no fire in his belly. If Robbie
Stockdale has, then lets play him.