Scotland defeated Cyprus in Larneca on Friday night 2-1 to record their third win in their last four matches. Their win in Cyprus added to the recent victories over Liechtenstein and Lithuania. It was not pretty, another laborious 4-5-1 formation and lethargic build up led to another scrappy and unconvincing win over a “minnow”. However there are more and more positives emerging from the national side.
The Scottish squad has some depth to it and that’s key to a grueling and successful campaign. Mackail-Smith, Mackie and Goodwillie have all got off the mark for Scotland recently and are settling in well and are competing with Kenny Miller- who scored an exquisite opener last night- for that lone striker berth, however Mackie can play on the left as he does for his club and as he did last night to good effect. He showed he can cut in off the left side, beat his man and score goals ( just watch his goal last night). So there is genuine attacking promise within this Scottish squad.
There’s also quality in the midfield with Bannan, Adam and Fletcher playing regularly in the Premier League. Scott Brown has the ability to break up play and Dorrans, Morrison, Conway, Cowie and Robson providing plenty of competition for places. However, with all these players Scotland lack tempo, pace and accuracy with their play. They give away possession too cheaply and never really dictate the game. I think Levein should look at the players we have at our disposal and play with more flair and style as Scotland did against Denmark as our negativity does restrain opponents but restricts Scotland even more and it is frustrating to watch.
Defensively we are pretty poor. Caldwell and Berra are both average centre backs. Personally, I like Berra but I do wish he would lead by example more and position himself better. The Scots lack depth in this area with Danny Wilson and Grant Hanley the future pairing but the forthcoming campaign may arrive too early for these youngsters. The real weakness is the full backs. Bardsley, Hutton and Whittaker are all attacking minded and more often than not get caught. There is too wide a gap between our centre backs and full backs, Cyprus got in behind the defence on several occasions far too easily. This is a real concern. The Cyprus goal resulted from our full backs being too high up the pitch in comparison to the centre backs, ball played into the acres of space behind Whittaker and he could not get back in time to recover and neither could Berra who get not get across in time. All too easy- even for Cyprus who hit the woodwork three times.
One bright spark was Jordan Rhodes, on fire for Huddersfield and impressing in Cyprus. He only got five minutes but he drove at the Cyprus backline and showed fight and passion but a hint of real quality and decisiveness going forward. He really is one for the future. Scotland have a lot of work to do in a group that contains a rejuvenated Welsh outfit and a Croatian side who have blew Turkey away last night and credible international sides Belgium and Serbia. A tough campaign to say the least but one that Scotland will head into with cautious optimism.