In emotional scenes at Hampden on Wednesday night time, Scotland’s World Cup desires were ended by a dismal however deserved 3-1 loss to Ukraine.
Amid the continued battle in Ukraine, it was the hosts who regarded overawed by the event and did not ship a efficiency of any actual high quality with a spot on the Qatar World Cup later this yr on the road.
Here, Sportsmail dissects an evening to overlook for Steve Clarke’s males and asks why the bid to succeed in Qatar 2022 got here to such a shuddering halt on the play-off semi-final stage.
Scotland’s hopes to succeed in Qatar got here to a halt on the play-off semi-final phases on Wednesday
Steve Clarke (centre) and his facet were comprehensively overwhelmed 3-1 by Ukraine at Hampden
It was an evening to overlook for the house help, together with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (centre)
NO CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
Clarke settled on a again three to resolve the particular drawback of attempting to shoehorn Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney and Liverpool’s Andy Robertson into the identical beginning XI.
Hindsight, after all, gives 20-20 imaginative and prescient and Clarke is aware of the sport inside out.
But the system failure that unfolded at Hampden against Ukraine suggests a again 4 could have made extra sense when it was confirmed the injured Tierney would not make the sport.
Clarke caught to the tried and trusted defensive form and it backfired. The Scots badly missed Tierney’s marauding runs up the left flank, his harmful deliveries and dogged defending.
Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay, taking part in on the correct of a again three, regarded ill-at-ease defensively.
Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay, in a again three, regarded ill-at-ease defensively
THE DIFFERENCE WAS STRIKING
As lately as November, Scotland dispatched high-flying Denmark 2-0 at Hampden by imposing a gorgeous, attacking model of play on an opponent ranked in the world’s prime 10.
It was the best nationwide group efficiency in many a yr, and Clarke’s group regarded not solely able to going to a World Cup however probably making their mark on the finals as soon as they acquired there.
Against Denmark, Che Adams performed the lone frontman function beautifully and was ably supported by John McGinn and Ryan Christie in a 3-4-2-1 formation.
But Clarke reverted to 2 strikers against Ukraine and the Scots were a shadow of the fashionable outfit that blew away the Danes, reverted to shelling lengthy balls up in direction of Lyndon Dykes.
The house facet were usually diminished to lumping lengthy balls as much as striker Lyndon Dykes (proper)
It was a miserable throwback to the techniques in the dismal Hampden losses against Czech Republic and Croatia at Euro 2020 that noticed Graeme Souness label Scotland ‘a group from one other period’.
Playing from again to entrance, Scotland’s ball-players Billy Gilmour and Callum McGregor were largely bypassed whereas the group badly missed injured Rangers enforcer Ryan Jack in the engine room.
FAILURE TO TURN UP THE HEAT ON ‘THE PUDDING’
Ukraine’s goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan was a lot of a legal responsibility that former Scotland captain Souness, on obligation for Sky Sports, amusingly described the Dynamo Kiev man as ‘an absolute pudding’.
Bushchan gave Scotland false hope by flapping a McGregor shot into his personal internet to make it 2-1 with 11 minutes left.
But Scotland did not put sufficient stress on the jittery keeper from set-pieces, which were all too usually poor regardless of the enter of specialist coach Austin MacPhee.
Scotland additionally did not put stress on nervy Ukraine goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan (left)
TOO MANY ‘BAD DAYS AT THE OFFICE’
It’s not Clarke’s fault that John McGinn missed a sitter to make it 2-1 with half an hour left.
McGinn has been Scotland’s talisman in latest years however the Aston Villa man was not at his finest. He was removed from alone, with sub-par showings all around the pitch.
The usually unflappable Billy Gilmour regarded like a participant whose confidence has been shot by a troublesome season on mortgage at relegated Norwich City.
Gilmour not often wastes a single cross in the Scotland midfield, however underneath no stress he uncharacteristically sprayed the ball wildly out for a throw-in on the correct because the Scots chased the sport in the second half.
Crucially Aston Villa star John McGinn (left) missed a sitter to make it 2-1 with half an hour to go
THE ANDY ROBERTSON OPTICS
Sipping a beer on Liverpool’s open-top bus parade on Sunday, 72 hours earlier than Scotland’s greatest match in a technology, was a poor resolution by the nationwide group captain.
Clarke gave his skipper his full backing however, even when the criticism was overblown, it was not a fantastic look from the full-back.
If Scotland had received, it would not have mattered a jot, however Robertson’s below-par efficiency on an off-night for the nationwide group gave his critics ammunition.
Would Robertson, they requested once more at full time, dare have risked being noticed ingesting alcohol three days earlier than LIverpool’s Champions League ultimate against Real Madrid?
The optics of Andy Robertson (centre) ingesting a beer three days earlier than were not good in any respect
THE END OF THE WORLD FOR GORDON
While admitting Scotland should ‘endure collectively,’ Clarke was right to emphasize the progress the nationwide group have remodeled the previous three years.
They reached the rescheduled Euro 2020 final yr, ending a 23-year wait to grace a significant finals, even when they did in the end disappoint massively on the large stage.
This was one other enormous blow however a younger Scotland squad have the expertise to be again at a significant finals in the speedy future.
‘Keeper Craig Gordon, 39, performed nicely however that is certainly his final probability to succeed in a World Cup
All ideas flip now to the Nations League marketing campaign that begins at house to Armenia on Wednesday as Clarke and his gamers intention to safe a play-off for Euro 2024 earlier than the common qualifying course of begins.
In phrases of the World Cup, nevertheless, the ship has in all probability sailed for the excellent Craig Gordon, who can maintain his head up excessive amid this newest qualification failure in a world profession stretching again to 2004.
Clarke had the 39-year-old Hearts goalkeeper to thank for stopping Wednesday’s damaging defeat changing into an utter humiliation.