Renton was right

“It’s SHITE being Scottish! We’re the lowest of the low. The scum of the fucking Earth! The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can’t even find a decent culture to be colonized BY. We’re ruled by effete arseholes. It’s a SHITE state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and ALL the fresh air in the world won’t make any fucking difference!”

Okay, perhaps Mark Renton was being overdramatic when it came to his assessment. Probably due to going cold turkey from the heroin. However, we have felt that impassioned after a Scotland defeat.

In Hollywood, most movies and TV shows are just rehashed with a different cast but the ending is pretty much the same. Once again the national team played the leading role in this disaster movie as they were eliminated from another qualifier in a gut-wrenching fashion that was gloriously painful and new from past miseries.

Robert Lewandowski played the villain and paid homage to Gary Caldwell’s spectacular performance in Hampden. The defender’s display was against an artsy French noir cast that provided drama in front of a live stadium audience. Those in the theater were enthralled by the defender’s interpretive display. Flash forward to Thursday night and the Bayern hitman showed his world-class status in the most undignified way in the final act. He was the quickest to react to the horrendously executed free-kick by the leading man’s sidekick Kamil Grosicki and bundled the ball over the line.

As the teams were banded together, any sensible minded football fan thought at least 22 points would have won the group, 20 would have been enough to be runners-up while still qualifying and 18 cementing that playoff spot. Now the guestimation will be off because potentially Martin O’Neill’s side could finish second with 21 as can Adam Nawałka’s White Eagles if one were to win on Sunday. If it is a scoreless draw Poland go through and if it is a score draw Ireland progress on 19.

Second was achievable for Scotland. Six points against the lower nations and four against the teams around them fighting for a place in France and nothing against Germany was realistic at the time. To put it in simplistic terms for any side. You win your home games and beat the minnows away and pick up a point from those around you on the road then you will qualify and get two free cracks at the big team in the group.

On reflection, we can now critique what went wrong in the season. It falls flat on two pivotal plot points, the first being the opening act in Dortmund then the twist in Tbilisi.

One hurts more than the other. It does not help that the supporting cast of the Jvarosnebi outperformed those Scots in the main roles. The director, Gordon Strachan has to shoulder some of the blame as he got the casting wrong. Levan Mchedlidze once again stole the show as he did in his debut outing eight years previous. That loss was the bitterest of them all, as a side that was expected to perform and get what had been used to; winning and the positive reviews that come with it. With that, you would have looked at a side sitting comfortably on 14 points with the Z-lister’s Gibraltar to play in the series finale.

Strachan quite rightly stated that they can only focus on what they could control but yes nobody could have legislated leaving with a share of the spoils against what was thought to be a dominate Mannschaft after their exploits in Brazil just a few months previous. In hindsight, they needed – and should have – taken at least a point against the World Champions, the Irish and the Polish had notable victories against the Germans on their own patch. However, they are fallible and have shown to be so in every game against those that were fighting out for the remaining two spots in the group.

The game on Thursday may be another example where in hindsight the point would not have been a bad result if they got it correct up to that stage giving that Ireland and Poland drew in the last game that Scotland would have finished second on the tiebreaker. Although you would have marked that down as a must win at any stage of the competition.

It was not bad luck or glorious failure as people used to like to put it. Scotland benefitted from three own goals in three different games. However, that did not make Strachan’s side lucky. Ireland benefited from three referring errors as Johnathan Walters knocked in from a corner in the match in Dublin. Germany were fortunate in Glasgow with the deflection of the ball. Then while you accept the defending of the goal against Poland was poor you are unlikely to see as poor a free-kick struck and somehow through ricochets and deflections end up in a place for the Bayern Munich striker to knock in.

I know you can make the argument that being in a lower pot – this time pot four – means they will draw a harder group, but that is nonsensical. There are teams in each pot that they would have preferred no matter where the teams were allocated in terms of seeding. Funnily enough Scotland drew the “worst” teams in pots two (Ireland), three (Poland) and six (Gibraltar). However at the time we knew it was going to be hard, all quarters anointed it the cliched group of death. In a dystopian reality, the management and his staff would have looked at Greece, Sweden, Isreal, Cyprus and San Marino as an ideal  draw to qualify to the tournament in France next year.

Defensively they have been slack, conceding five to the Germans, four to the Polish and a couple to Georgia and Gibraltar. Perhaps a touch harsh considering they score seven against the former two but to compare it to Ireland who leaked one goal to the Mannschaft and the same number – at the time of writing – against the Biało-czerwoni. The mistakes come to mind quickly. A Grant Hanley missed clearance in the Waldstadion, a switch off in the Boris Paichadze National Stadium, the same goes at Hampden against Joachim Low’s outfit, then the two goals against Lewandowski could have been avoided if it were not for silly errors.

In conclusion, to put this all to a painful end. Scotland are good enough to make a tournament, this side most definitely was, but they let themselves down. This is not like the disasters we have seen between McLeish leaving and Strachan taking over. There is a competent footballing nation there, but a lot – and I mean a lot – needs to be done to help the game in this country to aid qualifying on a more regular basis.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.


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