Football: The flaw of Scotland

Simon Turnbull argues the striking difference was plain to see in Gothenburg
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The Independent Online
The difference between Sweden and Scotland in Gothenburg on Wednesday night was more striking than the single goal which separated them in the final score. In Kennet Andersson and Martin Dahlin, Sweden had a striking partnership that threatened to cut through the meanest of defences at will. Thus it proved. With the assistance of the dynamic Dahlin, Andersson struck either side of half-time against a back-line which had last been breached on 15 June last year, when Paul Gascoigne extracted the goal which preceded his "dentist's chair" celebration.

That Kevin Gallacher's late reply provided consolation highlights Scotland's shortage in the forward department. The Blackburn Rover has scored three goals in his last two internationals. That is one more, however, than he managed in his previous 26. And Darren Jackson, his forward partner in Scotland's last three games, has scored once in 17 internationals. Andersson's international record is 27 goals in 56 games; Dahlin's is 27 in 53. Andersson seems destined to play in Scotland next season, with both Celtic and Rangers battling to sign him from Bologna. The chequebook remedy, though, is not an option open to Craig Brown.

The Scotland coach was encouraged by signs of a promising partnership developing between Gallacher and Jackson in the home World Cup qualifiers against Estonia and Austria, comparing their alliance to that once forged by Ally McCoist and Maurice Johnston. At 5ft 8in (Gallacher) and 5ft 7in (Jackson), however, they patently lack physical presence. And both were not regarded as specialist front-men at the start of their careers. Gallacher was a teenage flying winger at Dundee United; Jackson played as a midfielder and even a full-back at Newcastle.

Brown, though, has little choice but to invest faith in their mobility and industry as Scotland look to go for goals in their remaining three Group Four World Cup qualifying matches. Sweden and Austria can both overtake the Scots now but they meet in Vienna in September and goal difference could well determine Scotland's fate. With Duncan Ferguson facing the prospect of a groin operation and Ally McCoist creeping closer towards the 35 mark - years, that is (his Scotland goals tally is 19) - Gallacher and Jackson remain the front-line candidates to face Belarus in Minsk on 8 June.

Dahlin, who plays his club football in the Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach, feels Scotland's shortage of talent will leave them short of the qualifying mark for France 98. "Scotland do not have the individuals, the people with different skills, to make the difference in a game," the one-time Everton target said. "They can be strong in spirit but at this level more is required. You saw how we played against them. We created at least 10 good chances because we are a better team and we have better players."

That they have the better players up front is confirmed in the international goalscoring charts. It was also evident in the Ullevi Stadium on Wednesday. As the candid Brown was left to lament: "We didn't have the ability to beat the Swedes. That was the blunt truth. We compensate for our deficiencies as best we can but we do not have the calibre of player that other countries have at their disposal." Or, he might have added as Andersson's agent started dialling the 0141 numbers on his mobile, the calibre of striker one club in the west of Scotland is soon likely to have.