Endgame for Craig Levein as defiance of Scotland manager peters out

Belgium 2 Scotland 0

The debate, if it has even had time to become that, is in such infancy that the key points have not even been addressed, but Scotland's people were saying “no”, rather than writing it on a bit of paper, last night.

No more of this kind of abject failure, no more of these dire campaigns, no more failure to even rev up some sort of false optimism. Two draws with minnows at home. A dispiriting defeat to a Wales team who are pretty poor themselves and then, at the King Baudouin Stadium, this, the expected final hurrah of Craig Levein. Except, and perhaps this says everything, there was no hurrah, and, by closing time, there was not even an official goodbye.

If Levein's 34 months as the manager of Scotland are coming to an end, then defeat without scoring is perhaps a pretty fitting epitaph.

The man who once played 4-6-0 (it will haunt him forever) in a qualifying game against the Czech Republic, has no more altered the demise of Scottish football than those who preceded him, be it George Burley or Berti Vogts.

The size of Scotland's population has been the last, temporary and unstable piece of ground for those who cling to the hope that the football team at least can survive being such an outpost, but even then, last night was not the time to hide behind numbers.

Belgium is no footballing giant, no superpower with an endless well from which to prune a team. It has roughly twice the population of Scotland (around 11 million to 5.5m) but it is still small fry in comparisons to the pools from which England and Spain can pick. Still, it has delivered so many more world-class players in recent years that it has galloped off into the distance.

Last night just brought more confirmation, of that and of how far Scotland have fallen. No one expected them to get anything in Brussels, and they didn't. Their best player was their goalkeeper, Allan McGregor. Levein has sorted out his differences with Steven Fletcher far too late. There has been no late charge, no Herculean effort, no suggestion that a major corner had been turned.

Still Levein sang the same song. "I want to stay on as Scotland manager, the rest isn't up to me," he said. "I'll continue to do the job to the best of my ability and we'll see what happens. I'm very proud to be the Scotland national team manager and I want to continue to do so.

"As far as I am aware, I'm still doing my job so you would have to ask other people the questions. I'm interested in staying in the job and working hard to improve things.

"I've been in football for long enough to understand when the players are trying at their maximum and they're doing their best for each other and for the team – and they did that tonight and on Friday night.

"I felt Belgium had run out of steam a wee bit and it was a terrible time to lose a goal," he said of the home side's opener. "Let's not kid ourselves, they're a very good side.

"The question was could we take our chances? In all honesty, they were too good for us. We must look at a team like Belgium and aspire to be as good as them. They changed their youth set up about 12 years ago.

"We can't keep hoping we're going to qualify for major finals and slide down the rankings. The fight's not gone out of this team and I've got to commend them for that. The fans were behind the team and made a lot of noise.

"They did everything possible to get a result for Scotland tonight. I've seen again tonight a group of players who are determined and hungry and desperate to do well for Scotland. As long as that is the case, I'm quite happy to be working with these players.-

They held out for 69 minutes last night before the inevitable, Aston Villa's Christian Benteke heading past McGregor. Two minutes later Vincent Kompany produced an excellent second, turning and driving his shot into the Scottish goal, to finish the game. Time will tell if it was the end for Levein.


Get Adobe Flash player


Match rating 7/10.

Referee T H Hagen (Nor).

Attendance 44,047.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent