MY word, Scotland will be glad to see the back of Belgium for a while. This was our heaviest ever home qualifying defeat, completing an 11-0 aggregate score in meetings with Roberto Martinez’s side in the last few years. And with us sitting back in fifth in the Group I table, it almost certainly is the death knell to our hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2020, especially with a late Russian goal seeing them pick up all three points against Kazakhstan. Considering our previous two results against these opponents were 4-0 and 3-0, it can hardly be said that a defeat on this scale was entirely surprising. Did we learn anything from it? Did the players? If anyone did, it was a harsh lesson.


EVEN without a couple of Hazards, Real Madrid superstar Eden and Borussia Dortmund’s Thorgan, this Belgian team take some beating. Their midfield ran through two emerging superstars, Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker of Wolves. Kevin de Bruyne offers a different skillset to Eden Hazard, but he was happy to step into the role of Scotland’s tormentor in chief last night. Three perfect swings of that devilish right foot of his led to three goals in the opening half hour, before he got a goal of his own late on. Scotland played better in the second half but this could have been any score.


FOUR days on from the morale-sapping defeat against the Russians, Scotland yet again started with poise, purpose and shape. Steve Clarke went with a similar 4-4-1-1 shape to the one which frustrated the Belgians to an extent in Brussels, with the only difference being a willingness to press the game high. For that first ten minutes at least Belgium seemed mildly uncomfortable.

But once again Scotland were undermined by lapses of concentration. For all their quality, Belgium’s goals came from three set pieces – two corners of their own, and one of Scotland’s. As much as you admired the quality in the lightning Belgian break which led to Romelu Lukaku’s opener, the Scots should have been more ruthless in nipping it in the bud then were caught sleeping over a short corner for the second.


IT is too easy to say Scotland haven’t progressed since the 4-0 friendly defeat under Alex McLeish, but the nation should be thankful to big Eck this morning for the Nations League victory which leaves us two matches away from our first major finals in 22 years via the play-off. After a home semi-final against most likely Bulgaria or Israel in March, there will be a final against possibly Serbia or Norway, to be played either at home or away, depending on a draw to be made this November. In the four matches which remain, there is a chance for Clarke to settle on his best XI, even if it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will automatically be available.


SCOTLAND lined up with seven outfield players who are predominantly left footed on Monday night, with Stephen O’Donnell the only right sided player in the back four. The Kilmarnock right back is an honest player but things didn’t go his way for a second time. All hope was pretty much lost at that opening goal when he got tight to Dries Mertens on the edge of the Belgian box but didn’t take him out, while his night also included the booking for diving which cost us one of our clearest chances. Although Ryan Jack and Liam Palmer withdrew with injury, Scotland need more cover at right back.


As outclassed as Scotland were, there were some decent performances here. Ryan Christie will surely have learned from his stint off the front. Robert Snodgrass, back in the international fold after a few “mentally scarring” differences of opinion with the previous regime was another qualified success, keeping the ball nicely and being creative – even if he had the chance to hit the target with a free-kick from a nice distance out. Kenny McLean was another one of Scotland’s brightest players, particularly during an enterprising start to the match.

On the negative side, Scott McTominay earned a booking which will keep him out of the trip to Moscow. And while Matt Phillips worked hard enough for the cause, the search goes on for a striker who can get us a goal out of nothing.