Soccer Magazine

Levein Defiant as Scotland Face Euro 2012 Exit

By Niccoloc @Soccerwrapup

Scotland travel to Liechenstein on Saturday looking to keep their slim hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 alive. Despite the assertions of manager Craig Levein, this campaign has been nothing short of a disaster for the Tartan Army and another major step back for the national team at a time when the quality of player available for selection is as high as it has been for some time.

Barring the unlikliest of victories away to European and World Champions Spain in their final group game, Scotland need to win in Vaduz on Saturday and hope that play-off rivals Czech Republic slip up both at home to the Spanish and in Lithuania on Tuesday.

It is an unlikely scenario and it looks like Scotland will once again miss out on qualification for a major tournament. It’s been 13 years since they last participated in major finals and as they slip further and further down the seedings for future tournaments, there are no signs of that changing anytime soon.

Opinion is split on the performance of the manager, but I lay the blame fully at his door. Spain aside, this is one of the easiest groups Scotland could have hoped for as the Czechs are nowhere near the force they once were and Lithuania and Liechenstein are part of European football’s also-rans.

But instead of seizing the day, attacking a wounded animal in the Czechs and giving the Tartan Army a reason to wear Scotland football shirts with pride, Levein quite incredibly opted to play without a forward. Bizarrely, having lost the game, he still defends the tactic to this day, but even had Scotland won the game, I would not deem it to be a success.

The same happened in Lithuania when Scotland were content to settle for a draw, despite the fact the match was very much there to be won. Had they done so, the situation would currently look nowhere near as bleak.

Berti Vogts was roundly criticised for his performance as boss but the quality of player available to him was poor. In contrast, Levein has key midfield men from Manchester United and Liverpool and Premiership players in all positions. Yet his defensive tactics have put Scotland on the brink of yet another failure and he must reflect on his role in causing that.

The manager can blame whatever he wants, be it penalties, referees or injuries, but sometimes the truth is that little bit closer to home.

Written by Colin Hill, a sports writer who blogs about football gifts.

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