There was a suggestion this week, and one that reached interested ears within the Scotland camp, that all is not well with the Nationalmannschaft. Mark McGhee heard it from friends in Germany where he long ago spent 18 happy months with Hamburg.
The problem for McGhee and Scotland is that everything is relative. What McGhee and Gordon Strachan would give for Joachim Löw’s problems. What any international manager wouldn’t give for Löw’s problems.
Pre-Georgia the visit of Germany to Glasgow for Monday night’s Group D qualifier had the look of a fixture to be savoured, a full house at Hampden for the visit of the world champions. Now, post the disastrous trip to Tbilisi, it has the feel of one to be feared. The contrast between the timidity of Scotland and the pace, skill, slickness and physicality of Germany’s end-to-end encounter with Poland in Frankfurt a few hours later was acute. Germany’s year of living absent-mindedly, meandering from a defeat in Poland, to a draw at home to Ireland, appears behind them.
It was a chastened Scotland squad that slipped back into their training base as the country was waking up, heavy headed after the grim night before. The similarities between the national side’s meekness in Georgia and Celtic’s exit from the Champions League a week earlier have made for uncomfortable viewing for all who care about Scottish football.
There is a clamour for Leigh Griffiths, free-scoring for Celtic, to start on Monday in place of Steven Fletcher, but it is the experience and leadership of Darren Fletcher that would seem more necessary against the Germans, with Scott Brown peripheral in Georgia.
“We have had a bump and need to get on with it,” said Strachan. “I have got every confidence in the players to get themselves organised, refreshed and look forward to the challenge. The players want to put on a great performance on Monday and it will have to be a great performance to get the points.”
Great, and then some. McGhee was not misinformed about grumbles in Germany. The players themselves have been open about the struggle to refocus after conquering the world; Mats Hummels has spoken of how he struggled with his weight last season having over indulged off the pitch in the wake of victory in Brazil. Against Poland, there were signs that the swashbuckling seven-oners of Belo Horizonte, absent from the first half of the Group D programme, were well down the road to recovery.
“We still need to be a bit more stable,” Thomas Müller suggested. “We should not make so many individual mistakes. We must keep working at it.”
His manager was impressed with his side againstPoland , a strong team with a consistent goal threat in Robert Lewandowski. “We succeeded with a series of combinations and a great positioning game to win. The Scots lost to Georgia and so at home, if they want to have a chance of qualifying, they must invest more in attack. We will remain equally focused in Scotland and win that game as well,”said Löw.
It is hard to argue with that. Germany are not impregnable – Liverpool’s Emre Can was far from convincing on his debut at right-back – and the Poles created a succession of chances.
The Poles follow Germany to Glasgow next month, having played Gibraltar. With Ireland hosting Georgia, defeat for Scotland could leave them dangerously adrift before October’s final two rounds.Reuse content