Berti's mountainous task moves from the steep to the vertical

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The Independent Football

It was always going to be a tall order for Wee Berti and his boys, one way or another. Contemplating the prospect of John Carew in the opposition ranks yesterday, Berti Vogts pondered last week that the Besiktas striker was "almost 7ft tall" and suggested that he "might use step-ladders at the back".

Depending on which newspaper you happened to read yesterday, Carew actually stood 6ft 4in, 6ft 5in, 6ft 6in or 6ft 7in when he lined up to lead the Norwegian attack. As it happened, Scotland did not require a set of steps to shackle Norway's No 10. They could do with some crampons and Kendal Mint Cake though, as they look to the rest of their World Cup qualifying campaign.

With just a solitary point from two home matches, and trips to Italy and Norway still to come - not to mention to Moldova on Wednesday - Scotland will have to scale something bigger than John Carew if their coach of two-and-a-half years is to lead his adopted team to the World Cup finals in his homeland in 2006. Not that Herr Vogts was portraying Scotland's mission as a task of mountainous proportions in the aftermath of his side's defeat yesterday.

"It is still possible to qualify," he insisted. "We have eight other matches to play." Vogts's optimism was generously shared by his victorious rival. "If Scotland pick up three points in Moldova, they'll be back in contention," Age Hareide maintained. "They might even beat Italy."

Norway's coach knows all about the upsetting of odds in World Cup qualifiers. He was one of the Norwegian players who humbled Ron Greenwood's England 2-1 in Oslo in 1981. "When I walked into the dressing room at Maine Road, the Scottish players stood up and applauded," the former defender said of his return to Manchester City.

Bjorge Lillelien was not quite as restrained in his reaction as Asa Hartford and Tommy Hutchinson. The Norwegian radio commentator flew into historic orbit, proclaiming: "Lord Nelson! Lord Beaverbrook! Sir Winston Churchill! Sir Anthony Eden! Clement Atlee! Lady Diana! Maggie Thatcher! Can you hear me, Maggie Thatcher? Your boys took one hell of a beating."

The late Mr Lillelien's successor was never likely to have been moved to similar apoplectic heights yesterday. The Scotland side beaten by Hareide's Norwegians at Hampden are not exactly a scalp to shout about.

With his collection of youngsters from the domestic Premier League and fringe players from the Premiership, Vogts performed a silk-purse job to gain a draw against Germany and a win against Holland in a European Championship qualifying campaign that ultimately sank under a deluge of Dutch goals in Amsterdam. The dearth of talent at Vogts's disposal was not so much highlighted as lowlighted by the fact that his attacking hopes yesterday were pinned on a player of 5ft 5in who has scored just once in 10 international appearances, against the Faroe Islands 13 months ago, and another who has yet to get off the mark in his 13 months as an Evertonian. Paul Dickov and James McFadden were not short of endeavour yesterday but, like Norway's towering target man, they were unable to measure up in the goalscoring department.

Carew's most notable strike since his early days with Valencia was the right hook that rendered John Arne Riise unconscious on the Norway team bus last year. Riise suggested yesterday's encounter would be "a war", and Vogts was certainly looking to start a conflict as he confronted the Belgian officials at half-time about the Richard Hughes shot that looked suspiciously over the Norwegian goal-line when Steffen Iversen hoofed it clear.

The German World Cup winner was banished to the main stand for the second half, the start of which was held up until the Braveheart speech had run its course over the stadium tannoy. "You can take our land and our homes, but you will never take our freedom," Mel Gibson proclaimed. The Vikings, however, proceeded to take the three points, courtesy of an Iversen penalty.

Poor Berti Vogts - and Ian Rankin, Rabbie Burns, Jimmy Crankie and Oor Wullie. Their boys didn't deserve such a cruel beating from Hareide's men.

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