Sunday, 27 March 2011

Brazil 2 - 0 Scotland

Brazil: Cesar, Alves, Lucio, Silva, Santos, Lucas Leiva (Sandro, 86), Elano (Elias, 82), Ramires, Jadson (Lucas Rodriguez, 72), Neymar (Renato Augusto, 89), Leandro (Oliveira, 78)

Scotland:McGregor, Hutton, G. Caldwell, Berra (Wilson, 73), Crainey, Adam (Snodgrass, 78), Brown, Morrison (Cowie, 90), McArthur (Bannan, 56), Whittaker (Commons, 64), Miller (Mackail-Smith, 87)

Sometimes it's fun to sit back, relax and enjoy an utterly inconsequential game of football. We all know that Scotland are nowhere near as good as Brazil, we all knew that they would get beaten today and most of us probably had a good idea of the sort of unambitious football that Scotland would utilise. Of course none of this stopped me watching Sunday afternoons match, and largely enjoying it, despite the predictable nature of the result.

Scotland were pretty abject throughout, looking woeful and shorn of ideas both with and without the ball. The plan seemed to be to get the ball to Charlie Adam - playing in a deep lying central position - as quickly as possible, with Adam looking to ping balls out to the wings. Sadly, one excellent free kick delivery aside the Blackpool midfielder had a poor match, often looking to do much and misplacing several passes. For a player playing just in front of the back four he also seemed to lack any defensive instinct whatsoever and eventually gave away the penalty that led to Brazil's second goal. Craig Levein chose two fairly conservative wide players in Scott Brown and Steven Whittaker, with much of the former's attacking instinct having been curbed in his time at Celtic. The plan seemed to be for them to get up down the pitch, providing an attacking outlet while still tracking Brazil's wide man - Jadson and the brilliant Neymar. Sadly neither provided much in the way of each attacking intent or defensive solidarity, with Brown in particular looking lost throughout and failing to get forward and support an increasingly isolated Kenny Miller.

James Morrison and James McArthur looked like strangers playing in the centre of midfield and both put in undistinguished performances. Morrison probably looked the most exciting Scottish player of the day (albeit in very brief instances) but lacked time on the ball and struggled to play the right passes. Perhaps surprisingly, the team looked a lot more cohesive after Barry Bannan came on for McArthur. Bannan is clearly a cracking young talent, looking good on the ball as well as intelligent without it. I would like to see him starting alongside Charlie Adam in the centre of Scotland's midfield. The defence put in an archetypal 'blood and guts' performance, never saying die but looking outclassed by a below par Brazilian frontline. Gary Caldwell's spectacular double block in the second half was a particular highlight.

Levein was quick to remind the public post-match that Scotland are missing a lot of players, but this was a still a poor performance. Scotland are obviously technically inferior to Brazil but also seemed to lack both the off the ball movement and work rate of their South American counterparts. More importantly, they often struggled to string more than two passes together, leading to ironic cheers during a brief spell of second half possession. There were encouraging signs - Barry Bannan's impressive cameo for one - but they were few and far between, at least from where I was sitting.

On a solely personal level I was pretty gutted that Chris Maguire didn't come on, I am obviously ridiculously biased but I still think he deserved at least a few minutes at the end. Maybe next time - as long as he keeps putting the performances in for the Dons of course!

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