A repeat of the humiliation which Hungary inflicted when beating Scotland 3-0 a month earlier might well have panicked the Scottish Football Association into relieving Berti Vogts of his duties yesterday. But if a 0-0 draw at home to Slovenia was a damp squib of a start to their World Cup campaign, the display was sufficiently improved to ensure that Vogts lives to fight another day.
After the SFA's monthly board meeting a spokesman stated that there was "no change" in Vogts' position.
"The national team was discussed, but the position remains the same. Berti has a contract to get Scotland to the World Cup. There was no vote, no ultimatum."
Scotland's Group Five schedule continues against Norway at Hampden Park on Saturday 9 October, with a visit to Moldova the following Wednesday. Both are dangerous fixtures for Vogts. Not only has the manager identified the Norwegians as one of the Scots' principal rivals to reach Germany 2006, but Moldova represent the kind of obstacle over which they tripped against the Faroe Islands and Lithuania during the forlorn quest to qualify for Euro 2004.
After the stalemate with Slovenia, when Scotland dominated the first half yet were fortunate not to concede a goal during the second, Vogts went round the dressing-room enthusing about "a very good performance". Darren Fletcher, for one, struggled to share his satisfaction. "The manager was trying to pick us up, saying we did well," said the Manchester United midfielder. "But that's the way we are as a nation. We're disappointed. It feels as if it wasn't good enough."
For Malky Mackay, perhaps the only advantage of being overlooked for so long by Vogts is that he was not steeped in the culture of confusion and calamity which critics claim the German has brought to his role. The centre-back, whose £250,000 move from Norwich City to Coventry City fell through yesterday, offered a more upbeat assessment.
"I think we played very well in the first half and caused problems down the wings," Mackay said.
"We lost momentum after Gary Naysmith went off injured. But it has been a great nine days [the squad convened last week for the friendly in Spain]. We've trained a lot together and, in patches, you could see it paying off. There's more structure to our play, we look hard to beat and the atmosphere is more like a club side," he added.Reuse content