The Scotland manager said the performance was a “bit of a lift” after the deflation of last week’s dismal defeat in Israel.
Scotland were well beaten but a consolation goal in time added on by Steven Naismith, right, brought a little succour for McLeish against the understrength European champions. Goals by Helder Costa, Eder and Bruma had given Portugal a commanding lead.
“I would say we were compact we played some good football, going forward,” said McLeish. “We had one or two sniffs around the goals without being tremendously dangerous. There was a lot for me to take out of the game. After that horrible result [v Israel] it was a wee bit of a lift.”
McLeish is now turning his attention to two “cup finals” to against Albania and Israel as the Nations League group stage concludes next month. He said he was “aware” of the criticism directed at him following last week’s defeat in Haifa. The manager knows a great deal more lies in store for him should Scotland fail to do enough to top group C1.
“I guess it will be determined by next month, we’ll see,” he said. “We look to try and qualify, we’ll do everything we can to do that next month.
“We’re in that group with Israel and Albania for a reason. It’s because of the rankings. I look at them as cup finals.
“We want to win the two of them. We look for everyone to be on their A game when it comes to those two games.”
McLeish reverted to a back four against the second-string Portugal, who were missing Ronaldo among others. The manager now has a decision to make before the first assignment of next month’s double-header, against Albania in Shkoder.
“I know every system there is to know. I’ve coached teams before with three at the back, it’s been quite fashionable recently,” he said afterwards.
“We want to adapt to different formations. It’s about getting the right balance. For the Albania game [at Hampden] it really worked.
“I am not making any decision at this peculiar moment. With two games next month we will have long and hard chats about that.
“We will try to get information that will beat the opposition and play with a lot more urgency against Albania.”
He rued the mistakes that cost Scotland once again last night. Stephen O’Donnell, the Kilmarnock full-back, endured a torrid evening. Oli McBurnie lost possession in the lead-up to the opening goal as did Jack Hendry for the third.
“There are young players there, a lot of them are learning the trade, some of them have come in during the summer when we had to make new recruits,” he said. “It’s not easy to get guys to come in and be top internationals within three or four caps.”
“We shoot ourselves in the foot against the two top teams, Belgium and Portugal, with the basic errors that we made,” he added. “That’s the disappointing aspect of it. You expect the top teams to cut through you with the some majestic skill and leave you trailing but we were the perpetrators of our own mistakes. But we knew we were up against top class players.
“I know there were a lot of Portugal players rested but there was still a lot of money on the pitch.”
McLeish will now begin considering those names to include in one the most important squads he will have assembled in his entire managerial career. Naismith apart, last night underlined how badly Scotland miss Leigh Griffiths. McLeish is set to reach out again to the Celtic striker in the coming days.
“I want anyone back in the squad who can score a lot of goals and be a real threat and give me options,” he said.