You know that things are bad when you hear a German accuse his own countrymen of diving. Scotland may also have taken a tumble in Dortmund, but Berti Vogts insists that his team are unwilling to stay down.
Vogts was proud of his country last Wednesday night in the pouring rain of the Westfalenstadion. Not the one he grew up with, but the one he now manages - even though they lost 2-1.
Scotland's national coach has always loathed players who take a dive. Perhaps it is the memory of Kevin Keegan flopping to the floor so easily in that European Cup final in 1977 when Vogts was at his shoulder as Liverpool defeated Borussia Moenchen-gladbach. Perhaps he just prefers the game to be played the old-fashioned way.
Either way, Vogts could not quell the anger he felt at watching Germany dive repeatedly in the 2-1 success which now leaves the Scots with the play-offs as their only route into Euro 2004. Tobias Rau, the worst offender, whose theatrical leaps made every impact from a tackle seem like it had come from a juggernaut, did not play in the honest style that the bullish Vogts patented during his 102 caps for Germany.
"I was a defender, so maybe my opponent dived," he said ruefully on Friday, in the sanctuary of his office at Hampden Park. He had chosen to keep his own counsel after the game, rather than open up his feelings for dissection by his compatriots.
"I am sorry for the Germans, but I suppose that's normal in international football. It's not only the Germans, look to Spain, who got a penalty against Ukraine, look to the Italian boys in the match against the Welsh.
"Lithuania are even bigger actors than the Germans. They got a penalty against us in Kaunas, it was nothing, and I cannot wait until they come here next month. I don't like it, the Scottish supporters don't like it, but we have to learn from that.
"It is certainly not my way, nor the way for Scottish players. You must work hard for a penalty, or a free-kick around the box. I don't like that. The Scottish and English players don't like it."
The dismissal of Maurice Ross for his second booking for a fierce tackle on Rau that won the ball earned the young Rangers full-back a rebuke for his naïveté, but Vogts was equally scathing of Rudi Völler's reactions in the opposition dugout.
"Maurice is 21 years of age and he needs experience. He made one foul and then another foul. The German bench had everyone up in the air, shouting. We came very, very close to a sensation in Germany," he declared. "I am so proud of my players and the style with which we played."
Ironically, Scotland now need a favour from Germany - who must beat Iceland at home on 11 October while the Scots have to defeat Lithuania - if Vogts' team are to make the play-offs.
However, as he raked over the ashes of a painful defeat, what pleased Vogts most was that he seems to have uncovered more evidence that Scotland have rehabilitated their forwards. Even in the absence of the injured Kenny Miller and the suspended Steve Crawford, the threat posed by Steven Thompson of Rangers and Neil McCann, who has just left Ibrox for Southampton, almost made Germany buckle as the Scots chased an equaliser with 10 men.
When McCann rifled in a stunning second-half volley for his second international goal in four days, Vogts wanted to check if it was the same man he jettisoned last season.
"Since Neil came back from Southampton, he appears to have grown. He's the same size as me but now he plays with a lot of confidence. He worked so hard, but I have a good group of players who all work for each other, and I hope that will help us beat Lithuania."
Vogts also has some young blood to draw on if necessary, after Scotland's Under-21 side defeated their German counterparts 1-0, with Celtic's Shaun Maloney scoring the kind of predatory goal he whipped in against Stuttgart in last season's Uefa Cup. "That's what I mean by the progress we are making," Vogts declared.Reuse content