Craig Fowler looks back on a hard fought victory for Scotland. One that makes it two from two in the international friendly double-header.
We’re not a bad international side
“Northern Ireland are at the Euros, it shows you how bad Scotland are.” You’ve either heard this or said it yourself since last year. Scotland are not a worse side than Northern Ireland, or some of the other sides that will be playing at France this summer. There are many reasons why we are not there, but there’s no doubt that a even a modicum of luck deserted us throughout the qualifying campaign. Scotland were lucky tonight. Denmark handed us the opening goal and then squandered a good few chances to equalise. But where was that match in the qualifiers? We had to fight and scrap for every point and, barring the Georgia debacle, we were consistent throughout a very tough group. If we carry that sort of form into the World Cup qualifying campaign then we’ve got every chance of a second placed finish.
Strachan got the ‘learning’ balance just right
The Scotland boss said the international double-header would be an exercise in learning about fringe players and up-and-coming stars, before his assistant Mark McGhee said it was about winning and building up momentum going into the summer. Turns out it was about both. Had Strachan thrown in too many youngsters and players that hadn’t played together often, then it’s fair to say we’d have got very little joy from either of these matches. Instead, he kept a familiar core for both games and peppered it with new or fringe players here and there. Exactly what he took out of it we shall have to wait and see.
Matt Ritchie is turning into a fine asset
It’s fair to say it took some Scottish fans time to warm to the Bournemouth winger, though there’s no doubt the whole nation is fully behind him now. His ability to strike a ball - whether it’s a cross, set-piece or thunderous shot – is second to none in the Scotland side. He’s also growing in confidence with every Scotland appearance and learning to impose himself on games more. At 26, barring any major loss of form or injury, he’ll be a tremendous asset for the next two international qualification campaigns.
The future isn’t so bad after all
In the same week where the Scotland under-21 side received a hammering from a journalist for their collective lack of ability, two players who would have been playing in that side were they not called up to the full squad excelled on the Hampden turf. Kieran Tierney displayed his incredible knack of being consistently solid in every game, while John McGinn deserved his man-of-the-match honour after a polished debut. While those two would be considered stronger members of the under-21 team, there’s also the likes of Callum Paterson, Ryan Christie, Barrie McKay and, yes, Ryan Gauld who are all comparable in ability. Besides, you can’t call them lost before they’ve been given time to find their way.
It’s very difficult to get sent off in a friendly match
It’s probably fair to say that in any competitive match, Liam Bridcutt would have been sent off for a reckless lunge on Erik Sviatchenko. There’s a thin line between being enthusiastic and being foolish, and Bridcutt went careening over that line with his two tootsies pointed right at the shins of the Celtic centre back. The Dane will be back at Hampden in less than three weeks time to take on Rangers in the Old Firm semi. He was nearly taken out of that game by the challenge. Let the conspiracy theories commence!
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