Scotland: Strachan ‘drained’ after Poland draw
GORDON Strachan has hailed Scotland’s efforts in securing a draw in Poland, on a night when it emerged anything less might have caused his team a significant problem.
The visitors were 14 minutes away from gaining a famous victory but were relieved to collect a point after surviving a torrid finale, during which Poland hit the post.
But the point gained is a valuable one and keeps Scotland level in Group D with Germany, who were held to a 1-1 draw by the Republic of Ireland. Poland and Ireland lead a group Strachan feared will continue to prove damaging to his health. “This is the hardest group in the European championships, by far. This will go the last day,” he said. “I will be comatose by the end.”
Strachan admitted he was drained by the experience. Scotland lost the opening goal after 12 minutes after a poor mistake by Alan Hutton allowed Krzysztof Maczynski to strike home off the post. But they equalised six minutes later following a well-worked move involving Steven Fletcher and Ikechi Anya, who passed a late fitness test to play. Shaun Maloney finished in style after receiving Anya’s lay-off. Scotland took the lead 12 minutes after half-time after Steven Naismith’s far-post finish following a James Morrison free-kick. However, Poland drew level on 76 minutes through an excellent angled shot from Arkadiusz Milik. They then laid siege on the Scottish goal on a thrilling night of football.
“What a terrific game of football in a terrific stadium,” said Strachan. “Terrific fans, both sides. The atmosphere was great. You had everything tonight, great goals, mistakes. You got good value. We definitely enjoyed playing in the game and I hope they [Poland] enjoyed playing the game as well.”
“I am tired,” he added. “It was a draining experience for everyone. I am sure the fans are drained, I am drained. Overall we cannot ask for much more. We probably would like to have passed it a bit better.
“When you see them hit the post, you think we can get another attempt at goal here too. They were throwing everything at us. It was old fashioned, hitting diagonals, everything, But we dealt with it well. They [Poland] are a tall and powerful side.”
Strachan paid tribute to the centre-half pairing of Russell Martin and Gordon Greer, who replaced the injured Grant Hanley. It was the 33 year-old’s competitive debut and he distinguished himself against the powerful Robert Lewandowski.
Strachan was also effusive in his praise for Steven Whittaker’s contribution at left-back. The manager surprised many by bringing in the Norwich player for Andy Robertson, who dropped to the bench.
“Gordon Greer is fantastic,” he said. “He looks nothing like a football player – he looks like a rock star who’s turned up at a testimonial game. But he is absolutely fantastic. I thought his partner [Martin] also did well.
“As for Steven Whittaker? You put him on there and you know what you are going to get. If you had ten Steven Whittakers you would sleep a lot easier the night before the game, trust me.”
Strachan conceded he would have taken a point had it been offered before the game. But he also admitted that knowing victory was in sight in the latter stages of the game meant it was harder to accept now. He praised his team for believing they could secure the three points despite having fallen behind in such disappointing fashion.
“I suppose before the game if you said we’d get a point you’d say yes, that is fine,” he said. “We are playing a team that had just beaten Germany. But you can see from the team that our team said we wanted three points. To go a goal behind and keep playing was terrific.”
Strachan expressed concerns at the state of a surface on which a game as intense as Poland v Germany had been played just days earlier. “It was not an easy surface,” he said. “I didn’t realise it was as heavy as that. Smaller players kept at it and did a great job for us and without the ball.”
But he was happy with a result that maintained Scotland’s improving fortunes.
Asked whether he can see the improvement for himself, he said: “Yes, I do especially over the last year. The rhythm is good and the understanding. I see patterns getting played during the game. I am really pleased with performance.”