It’s hard to understand why Fernando Santos looks so hangdog. The Portugal coach prowled around his Hampden technical area scowling like a man with the weight of Brexit on his shoulders. He should try being Alex McLeish.
Against the champions of Europe Scotland’s sixth defeat in their eight games was hardly unexpected. It was never quite the grim, cracks of the fingers horrow shor of the 2-1 defeat to Israel on Thursday night. And if managers try to learn lessons from these friendlies, then McLeish learned a few things to take into Nations League games with the Albania and Israel games which could now have a huge bearing on his future as Scotland manager.
Going to four at the back did nothing to fix costly individual mistakes in defence, but did restore a measure of assurance to Andrew Robertson’s game. Celtic’s James Forrest starting in a 4-2-3-1 formation also offered more balance than the shapeless mish mash of the second half of a woeful defeat in Haifa. If Oli McBurnie is the alternative, meanwhile, Steven Naismith is still the best best for a goal. However late, however futile.
Wolves winger Helder Costa (right) celebrates scoring the goal that put Portugal ahead
Costa reacted quickest in the Scotland penalty area to turn the ball beyond Craig Gordon
Eder (centre) celebrates putting Portugal two goals ahead against Scotland on Sunday
Yet saying this was better like Israel feels like being crowned Albania’s best dressed man. The bar is set pretty low.
‘I would say were compact we played some good football, going forward,’ said McLeish. ‘There wasn’t really an element of taking risks, I think we passed the ball well between the Portuguese at times.
‘We had one or two sniffs around the goals without being tremendously dangerous. There was a lot for me to take out of the game. After that horrible result in Israel it was a wee bit of a lift.’
Not enough of a lift to beat Portugal’s stiffs, sadly
The Euro 2016 winners arrived in Glasgow with a 100% record from a three-team Nations League Pool A group following impressive wins over Italy at home and Poland on Thursday night. Their 3-2 win in Chorzow was achieved minus Cristiano Ronaldo, left out of the squad by ‘mutual consent’ following allegations of sexual assault.
And while a 5pm Sunday kick-off was never likely to have supporters queuing down the steps of a half empty Hampden, the absence of CR7 was like pouring a bucket of cold sick down the ticket office window. There were 19,684 inside Scotland’s National Stadium on Sunday night and that tells its own story.
Eder got up well to direct his header into the far corner which Gordon was unable to stop
Bruma was able to add a third goal for Portugal as he glided through a poor Scotland defence
Bruma finished off a flowing Portuguese move that Scotland failed to track and deal with
A few wins and some signs of progress would make games like this a bit more attractive. Yet this latest defeat – however predictable…