Perceptions shift like the weather in football. Within an hour of landing in Lithuania, the Scotland squad saw frozen lakes, patches of snow, sleet showers and bright sunshine, while the tiny Baltic state's weekend draw away to Germany, which initially aroused Scottish delight, had been declared "the worst possible result" by Berti Vogts.
Scotland's German manager, who might have been expected to view the outcome in Nuremberg as having enhanced Scotland's prospects of reaching Euro 2004 as winners of Group Five, instead interpreted it as bad news. Not only would Germany now become more focused on their two meetings with the Scots, but Lithuania would be more fired up for tomorrow's qualifier in Kaunas.
"This result means only that they will concentrate more on beating Scotland," Vogts said of the country he coached to the 1996 European Championship. "It will just make them harder to beat. Have we forgotten that it is only nine months since they were in the World Cup final?
"I watched the video and saw all the reaction in Germany, especially from television. It was the same as you would expect if Scotland had taken a one-goal at home to Lithuania yet failed to win. Germany played well for the first 20 minutes, but then seemed to think the game was over."
Lithuania equalised seconds after the Spanish referee erroneously ruled out a 73rd-minute effort by Bernd Schneider, but Vogts said: "We must recognise that Germany scored a valid goal. A draw was the worst possible result because Lithuania will be fired up and thinking they can take the play-off place."
For Graham Alexander, who helped make both Scotland goals in the 2-1 win over Iceland, tomorrow's incentive was self-evident. Expressing the hope that Scotland could emulate Wales' spirit and success – a sign of the times – the Preston wing-back added: "I don't want to speak too soon, but it would be great to play Germany in June with us three points clear at the top. Then they would have to beat us at home."Reuse content