STEVE Clarke’s insistence that his Scotland side could produce a shock against the star-studded Belgium team managed by Roberto Martinez was always wildly optimistic.

Goals from Romelu Lukaka in each half and a Kevin De Bruyne strike in injury team made this a routine win for the home side and a miserable evening for the visitors.

But was it all doom and gloom for Scotland? Here are five things we learned from the 3-0 defeat in the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels last night.


Scotland were always going to spend long spells on the back foot. They were facing the top-ranked team on the planet on their own patch and were missing several key players. It would have been a huge surprise if they had even held their hosts to a draw.

Their best chance of getting a result was grabbing a goal on the counter attack. They had a chance to take the lead in the ninth minute after a clearance upfield from keeper David Marshall. Stuart Armstrong got on the end of it and played in Oliver Burke.

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Burke, the match winner against Cyprus on Saturday, had been preferred to Eamonn Brophy in attack in the hope that he could use his pace on the break and snatch something against the run of play. But he pulled his effort wide of the left post.

It was, as expected, a one-sided encounter. The scoreline would have been greater had it not been for Marshall’s assured display. But if Clarke’s charges had gone ahead then could it have been a different story?


Scott McTominay did well to dispossess Thorgan Hazard in the Scotland box just before half-time. But the Manchester United man and his team mates immediately switched off and gifted their hosts a soft goal. They thought the ball was going out for a corner. Eden Hazard had other ideas. He kept it in, chipped over Scott McKenna to Lukaka and the striker headed home.

Yes, Scotland had ridden their luck up until that point. Only some desperate defending and slopping finishing had kept them level. Still, falling behind in added on time at the end of the first 45 minutes was a savage blow to their hopes of producing an upset.


Andy Robertson, the Liverpool left back, had arguably been Scotland’s star man against Cyprus. The newly-crowned Champions League winner linked well with Ryan Fraser ahead of him and capped a fine display with a stunning second-half strike.

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But Robertson was unable to make the starting line-up last night after failing to recover from a hamstring strain. Losing their skipper and best player was a massive setback for the national team.

Greg Taylor of Kilmarnock came in to win his debut for his country. The 21-year-old did admirably all things considered. He certainly wasn’t at fault for any of the goals. But he posed far less of a threat going forward than his illustrious compatriot would have.


This has been quite a season for the former Aberdeen midfielder. He recovered from the ankle surgery, helped Norwich City win the Sky Bet Championship, scored his first goal for Scotland and now appears to have established himself in the national team.

The 27-year-old was outstanding against Cyprus on Saturday evening and he was one of his country’s better performers last night. He combined well with McTominay in central midfield, showed composure on the ball despite being under considerable pressure, played some fine passes and made a few well-timed tackles.

Scotland aren’t exactly short of quality options in that area of the park with Stuart Armstrong, John McGinn, Callum McGregor and McTominay. But McLean will, as the old saying goes, be one of the first names down on the team sheet after his showings in this double header.

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Moving from the Championship to the Premier League next term will be a huge step up in standard. But McLean can step up to the top flight with confidence on this evidence.


Scotland languish in fourth place in their qualifying section after four games and have much work to do in their remaining six matches if they are to get up to second spot and progress automatically. Their next three matches, against Russia and Belgium at home in September and Russia away in October, are of huge importance.

But there are reasons to be optimistic despite this defeat. The all-round display was a vast improvement than the one in the 4-0 defeat they suffered against the same team in a friendly at Hampden last year.

They have been compact, well-organised and shown great heart in their last two games. They fought to the death last night and Ryan Fraser and Scott McKenna both forced saves from Thibaut Courtois in the last 10 minutes.

Clarke has only had a handful of training sessions with his players. These games, too, have come at the end of a long season. There were enough positive aspects in the two matches to give the Tartan Army reasons to be optimistic going forward.