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Macedonia 1-0 Scotland
Sep 7 2008 Mark Guidi In Skopje
WE thought we had left the bad old days of Berti Vogts behind. On this evidence they may be on the way back. After Berti was in charge for a few games there was little confidence in Scotland getting it right. And that appears to be the case now under George Burley.
Walter Smith cleaned up the mess left behind by Vogts before Alex McLeish took us to within a whisker of reaching Euro 2008.
But in this defeat - which many could see coming - Burley's side never reached the level of performance we often witnessed during the last qualification campaign.
Scotland started lethargically and were punished when Ilcho Naumoski opened the scoring after just five minutes.
It was a blow Burley's men never recovered from and the team now faces an uphill struggle to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
If you want to make it to a major finals you can't lose these type of fixtures.
You need to put down a serious marker of intent and leave with the points.
To come away with nothing is totally unacceptable - even if the game was played in blistering heat throughout.
Burley's team selection wasn't a surprise and he opted for a 4-4-2 formation against Macedonia's 3-4-3. You couldn't argue with his starting line-up and it was refreshingly positive to go with twin strikers - Kenny Miller and James McFadden - away from home.
Unfortunately they never got the chance to impress before the home team opened the scoring.
Stephen McManus was penalised for a foul on Goran Maznov 23 yards out but it was a debatable decision.
Skipper Goce Sedloski struck the free-kick powerfully and Craig Gordon did well to tip his effort on to his post.
The ball rebounded into the six-yard area and Naumoski reacted first to slam into the net.
It gave the home crowd a major boost - not that this was by any means an intimidating arena.
Scotland didn't show anything positive to bounce back. They were slow and their passing was sloppy. McFadden created a chance for himself on the half hour when he jinked along the penalty area to leave three Macedonians tackling thin air.
He rattled in a shot from 15 yards but Igor Mitreski slid in to block before it tested keeper Petar Milosevski.
Seconds later referee Pavel Kralovec rightly waved away a penalty claim when Maznov crumpled after Gordon slid out to meet him.
Maznov dived and was lucky to escape a booking for his antics.
The same player was denied a goal in 39 minutes when he raced clear in a superb counter-attack.
Maznov was one-on-one with Gordon but a last-gasp Gary Caldwell tackle saved Scotland from conceding a second.
Burley must have been happy his side were only one down at the break.
Only Barry Robson, Paul Hartley and McFadden came close to the level required. The rest were average at best. Darren Fletcher was a huge letdown and Scott Brown didn't get going.
There was much more urgency and accuracy after the interval.
However, for Burley to say the second-half performance was "outstanding" is ludicrous. Frankly, it's the kind of nonsense Berti used to come away with.
Brown was involved early in the half and Milosevski saved well from his 20-yard shot.
But Scotland should have tested the keeper more as he looked dodgy throughout. The same couldn't be said of Gordon and he pulled off a top save to keep out a 30-yard rasper from Velice Sumulikoski.
The keeper also denied Naumoski at point-blank range.
At the other end Macedonia were lucky not to concede a penalty in 71 minutes.
Miller went down under a challenge and the ball broke for McFadden who was caught by keeper Milosevski for an even stronger appeal.
Shaun Maloney then came on for Robson who was our most effective outfield player.
And Maloney had Scotland's best effort late on when he beat two men on the left before unleashing a 20-yard strike that forced a top save from Milosevski.
Fingers will be pointed after this disastrous defeat and the way Scotland prepared for the game has to be scrutinised.
The team hotel was in Skopje's city centre - slap bang in the middle of Friday night's madness from the locals and the Tartan Army. Shambolic organisation.
Landing in Macedonia less than 24 hours before kick-off also wasn't proper.
Now there is tension in the camp and reservations about the manager continue.
No wins from four games is a shocking record for Burley. He must make it one from five in Iceland on Wednesday night.
The SFA dithered over bungling Berti. History must not be allowed to repeat itself.
Shots on 7
Shots on 6
Taken from the Sunday Mail