Scotland players must take blame, insists Christophe Berra

FORMER Hearts captain Christophe Berra stressed today that Craig Levein should not be blamed for Scotland’s disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign. Friday night’s defeat in Wales leaves hopes of reaching Brazil 2014 in tatters, but Berra believes Levein should not pay the price with his job.

The national coach is now under mounting pressure ahead of tomorrow’s Group A match in Belgium, with Scotland sitting second bottom of the section having won only two points. As Scotland supporters call for Levein’s head, Berra said it is the players who must take responsibility for sub-standard results.

Asked if the players still back Levein, the Wolves defender said: “It’s got nothing to do with the manager. We are the ones who go out on the pitch. We played well (against Wales). We just maybe ran out of steam a bit. A penalty and a 25-yard strike lost us the game.

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“At top-level football, it’s the flip of a coin sometimes. We didn’t have the luck. It’s a game we should have won comfortably. Our chances came and maybe we should have killed them off.”

Odds are against Scotland achieving a victory in Belgium to rekindle slender hopes of qualifying, although Berra believes the national team perform best when they are written off. “We’re second-bottom. It’s not a great position to be in,” he continued. “But we will look over the game and we will go to Belgium and prepare for the game on Tuesday.

“They are a top team, with world-class players, but we have done it before. We did in France. When we’re down, we always seem to bounce back. We didn’t play badly against Wales. Lady Luck just didn’t go our way. Footballers are thick-skinned. At club level as well, you get beaten in one game, you’ve got to move on. We are disappointed now but you can’t dwell on the past.”

James Morrison’s opening goal was eclipsed by two Gareth Bale efforts in Cardiff, the Tottenham winger scoring a spectacular second to secure victory for his country. Scotland had a legitimate Steven Fletcher goal disallowed with 15 minutes

remaining and then managed to crumble.

“We don’t know how we got beaten, really,” said Berra. “We played well in the first half, we passed the ball well and scored a route-one goal and had a couple of chances. They had more of the ball in the second half but they weren’t cutting us open. It’s a strange feeling. It was a comfortable game, we were winning 1-0.

“They had a lot of the ball in the second half but we weren’t under much pressure. It’s


Berra conceded that Bale ought to have been better

policed by the Scots. “He’s a world-class player. I don’t know if the first goal was a penalty or not. For the second goal, too many of us switched off and you can’t give that kind of player ten, 15 yards to run into and have a pop at goal.

“On another day, he might have hit it over the bar. But he’s got the ability and he put it into the top corner. It was bitterly disappointing for us. We should have won the game.”

Berra paid tribute to the Tartan Army who travelled to Wales in their numbers only to leave the Cardiff City Stadium in stunned silence. “They were great, they backed us all the way. We are just as shell-shocked as them,” he added. “We are disappointed we didn’t win the game but the fans backed us 100 per cent and we can only thank them for that.”

Cardiff City midfielder Don Cowie has joined the squad ahead of the game against Belgium to replace fellow midfielder Scott Brown. The Celtic captain has been troubled by an ongoing hip problem this season and was forced to withdraw at half-time on Friday night against Wales.

Brown’s Parkhead team-mate, James Forrest, has also returned to Glasgow because of a groin problem.