Scotland met England in World Cup qualifying Group F at Wembley Stadium on Friday night.
Here, we look at five things we gleaned from Scotland’s 3-0 defeat.
It’s the end of the road for Gordon Strachan
Strachan reacted to the 3-0 loss to Slovakia by making eight changes in a last throw of the dice. In terms of the overall tactical game plan, the national team boss got it right. The pressing of Scotland’s forwards upset the English rhythm early and for the opening 50 minutes, Scotland were the better side. However, the inability to keep things tight at the back and ride out periods of pressure has been a failing of this Scotland team for the majority of Strachan’s tenure. He may not have much to work with, but other nations have similar deficiencies in defence and still do a better job of keeping out opponents. It is a team and organisational flaw and will continue to haunt Scotland until something changes.
2. The two sides fulfilled their poppy promise
After all the posturing and proclamations, England and Scotland wore poppies on black armbands, following precedent - England wore poppies in the same manner against Spain in 2011 - and defying FIFA. Football’s world governing body has said the wearing of poppies falls under banned messages that it considers commercial, personal, political or religious, while both Football Associations insisted the symbol was purely about remembrance. FIFA may act.
3. Executing in both boxes is a lot easier with better quality
Three of Scotland’s back four play in the Championship and Newcastle’s Grant Hanley’s default action when he had a free header six yards out was to send it over the bar. Unfortunately for Scotland he was in the opposition box. James Forrest and Robert Snodgrass also went close to an equaliser before Adam Lallana doubled England’s advantage. Three English headers were the difference, coming from three chances up to that point.
4. Brown v Rooney was a non-event
The teams’ talismen were restored - England captain Wayne Rooney after being dropped for the goalless draw in Slovenia and Scott Brown after retiring from international football in August. Neither had the impact desired by their managers. Rooney bundled Brown over from behind after seven minutes, attempting to assert his authority, but he did little to impose himself on proceedings. Brown may wish he had never returned as Scotland’s lack of quality was all too evident.
5. Another campaign bites the dust.
England extended their unbeaten run to 33 international qualifiers (in both World Cup and European Championships) with a 25th win. Our neighbours top Group F with 10 points after three wins, while Scotland have four points from four games to sit fifth, above only minnows Malta. The absence from major tournaments dates back to France 1998. It now seems like the earliest end will come at Euro 2020.