Exactly 1,000 days from today, the opening match of the World Cup finals in Germany will kick off. If the 2006 host nation and Scotland do not meet between now and then, it will be too soon.
Their collision in Dortmund, which Germany won 2-1 to ensure that Scotland's push for at least a play-off for a place at Euro 2004 will go to the wire, was a rancorous affair. Christian Dailly, the Scotland defender, accused the Germans of being "diving cheats", before European football's governing body, Uefa, defused tensions last night by declaring that it was unlikely to charge him with bringing the game into disrepute.
Mike Lee, Uefa's director of communications, said: "The comments [by Dailly and his team-mate James McFadden] were unfortunate, unhelpful and a bit silly. But they were probably said in the heat of the moment, and will probably not lead to disciplinary action." Lee said the remarks were not mentioned in the report by the referee, Sweden's Anders Frisk, and added that the German FA had not complained.
Dailly, arguably the Scots' best player on Wednesday, was incensed by what he saw as Tobias Rau's theatrical part in the 66th-minute sending-off of Maurice Ross. The West Ham captain's out-of-shot exclamations interrupted a post-match television interview with Berti Vogts, the Scotland manager and former coach of Germany.
With their place in the top two in Group Five assured and Rudi Völler's position looking more secure, Germany can afford to let the matter rest. But the tendency of their players to fall as if hit by a poisoned blow-dart at the merest brush of an opponent's body has been a trait of their football for too long, and is in itself disreputable.
If Rau's role in Ross's first booking appeared cynical, the Rangers full-back's second foul on him was the height of folly, despite Rau's melodramatic response. Scotland had just halved a two-goal deficit with a breathtaking goal by Neil McCann.
Rau, a 21-year-old from Bayern Munich, said: "That was the hardest, most physical match I've played in. I tried to tell the Scots to calm down, that it was only a game, but they didn't want to listen."
No one in international football, least of all Germany, thinks it is only a game. One only had to see Völler's drained features. "I don't feel like the winner in this saga," he said of the "crisis" sparked by Saturday's draw in Iceland. "The past few days have been a burden. The pressure on the players was almost unbearable. I'm glad it's over."
Germany, deserved victors yet far from the indomitable force of old, still need a point against Iceland in Hamburg next month to seal automatic qualification. The Icelanders require their greatest win to deny Scotland a play-off spot, assuming Vogts' improving team defeat Lithuania in Glasgow.
Ross can look ahead to tackling VfB Stuttgart in the Champions' League, and Rau to further evidence of the physicality of Scottish football. Next week: Bayern v Celtic.Reuse content