Why negativity is to blame not the referee

Craig Levein

Since 1998, Scotland haven’t qualified for a major championship and this run looks set to continue. Despite beating Lithuania 1-0 on Tuesday night, their 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic means they will have to go and beat World Champions Spain – in Spain.

In the fallout from Saturday’s game, many have criticised referee Kevin Blom for his role in their failure to beat their European opponents.

Whether the referee was right or wrong, the Scots are not in the position to blame the officials.

They should analyse what they did wrong first in their qualifying campaign.

For example they cannot afford to be drawing 0-0 away to Lithuania. You could argue no team really deserves to be playing at the European Championships if you can’t beat opposition like this, especially when Scotland failed to create few clear cut chances.

Their real undoing has been in the games against the Czech Republic.

Manager Craig Levein controversially opted for the 4-6-0 formation in their first tie in Prague.

By playing in such a defensive manner, he immediately gave the initiative to the Czechs in the knowledge they could throw men forward from the first minute.

The statistics from this game prove it. The Czechs had 22 shots on goal whilst Scotland managed just 3. Most importantly, the Czech Republic scored one and the Scots didn’t.

Scottish Commentator Archie MacPherson said in the Daily Record, “Scotland were up against a Czech Republic side whose stock has plummeted so far and yet we went there and treated them like Brazilians. It was unthinkable.”

This negativity has arguably cost the Scots a place at Euro 2012.

In between their games against the Czechs they took on Spain. They did extremely well to get back on level terms having been 2-0 down to the world’s undisputed best team.

However, they dropped deep, inviting the best in the world onto them. Inevitably, Fernando Llorente capitalised on this.

To last Saturday’s game at Hampden Park.

They took the lead. They dropped deep. The Czechs score. They retook the lead. The Czechs score again.

Their opponents took advantage of Craig Levein’s rather predictable negativity.

As for the penalties, you cannot blame the Scots for their reaction. Both penalty incidents were bizarrely identical. The lack of consistency from Kevin Blom is very hard to comprehend. Had Captain Darren Fletcher cleared the ball effectively, there wouldn’t have even been a penalty.

Fletcher is nevertheless important to Scotland. Craig Levein could perhaps be forgiven for his negative outlook if he didn’t have players such as Fletcher and Charlie Adam. Maybe striking wise, they are not up to scratch. However, when Steven Fletcher is fit, you’d have to say that isn’t the case.

They need strength in depth but this isn’t easy to acquire with the resources Scotland has at its disposal.

Having managed Hearts and Dundee United in the SPL, it is perhaps from these experiences where Craig Levein takes his negative mentality, attempting to compete with Celtic and Rangers.

The statistics suggest otherwise. He took Hearts to third in the table in his final two seasons at the club. In his first match as Dundee United manager, his side beat Rangers 2-1. In fact, the Tannadice outfit didn’t lose to Rangers in 5 of the 11 league encounters during Levein’s tenure. He also helped to end United’s 38 match winless run against Celtic.

This is a reasonable record considering the manner in which both Glasgow clubs monopolise Scottish football.

The Scottish FA’s appointment of Levein recognised his ability as the underdog. The fact is on the international stage, he doesn’t need to be negative against the majority of the opposition he will play in the qualification stages.

So it appears if Levein can be more adventurous as a manager and not deploy such negative tactics, Scotland will have a much better chance at playing in Brazil in 2014.
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