John McGinn: Scotland wasted time, grass was long, Spain team gave us big lift - but we did not 'fall about'
However, the Scotland midfielder refuted claims that the Scots got involved in gamesmanship and diving after Spanish captain Rodri accused them of such acts and playing “rubbish” football.
McGinn was a key part of the Scotland team that recorded one of the country’s best wins by overcoming the Spanish 2-0 in the Euro 2024 qualifier on Tuesday night. A double from Scott McTominay gave Steve Clarke’s men victory on a famous night at Hampden, with the Scots now top of Group A by three points following the first two round of fixtures.
Rodri was not the only Spanish player to take aim at Scotland, with David Garcia also criticising the length of the grass at Hampden. The press back in Spain were also quick to jump on their team for losing to Scotland, while manager Luis de la Fuente was criticised for making sweeping alterations to his team in only his second game in charge. McGinn admitted that seeing some of Spain’s marquee names left on the bench lifted him and his team-mates before the match.
“We had a lot of belief,” said McGinn. “We were a little bit buoyed by the team selection of Spain. They made a lot of changes, I wasn't sure if that was to freshen it up or if they thought that they could come to Hampden and just sweep us aside with any team. No matter what team I've played for, as soon as it's been announced [the opponent's line-up] it goes on the board. When you work each day to prepare and play against a team and it's almost completely different, it's weird.
"It's difficult, probably for coaches as well, to try and put messages across. It was surprising to see so many changes. It's obviously a new manager and a new coach, so you can't really predict what he's going to do. But making eight changes was something we didn't expect and a lot of new faces in the team. We knew we had to start bright, start fast and try to make them uncomfortable. Thankfully, that's what we managed to do."
McGinn was also aware of the post-match comments from the Spanish camp and in an interview with Sky Sports, confessed that Scotland did resort to time-wasting and that they took advantage of home comforts. But was quick to quash suggestions of playacting. “I did see them,” the Aston Villa midfielder said. “I don't really have a huge amount of reaction. I wasn't really sure that was something that could be targeted at us, falling about.
“Wasting time? Absolutely. If anyone expects us to go head-to-head with Spain in a tiki-taka battle for 90 minutes and expects us to come away with three points, then there is absolutely no chance. I think everyone needs to get a bit of realism and realise that we need to find a way to beat Spain. We managed to do it. The grass is a bit long, the pitch was a bit sticky. But it's in Scotland, it's not in Spain. It's the benefits of being the home team.
"I thought we handled the game well, and maturely. Did we waste time a bit? Aye, absolutely because we were winning from an early point. Were we rolling about from challenges? No, we were the same as the Spain players. I don't really agree with that, but Spain are a top, top team and I'm sure they will be back."