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Manager bemoans lack of preparation after Scotland miss out on place in the play-offs

Heraldscotland staff

12 Oct 2011

spain 3 scotland 1 Levein’s men succumb to the inevitable in Alicante

Craig Levein insisted he needed more time to prepare his Scotland side for their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign after it ended last night with a comprehensive 3-1 defeat by Spain in Group I. The Scots needed to at least match Czech Republic’s result in Lithuania – where the Czechs won 4-1 –but they could not overcome the world and European champions in Alicante.

Scotland have now failed to reach the finals of a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France. There is no shame in losing twice to Spain – who won 3-2 at Hampden – but in hindsight, Levein must look back at the two points dropped against Lithuania in the opening game and the one point taken in the matches against the Czechs.

However, the Scotland manager last night insisted he was still trying to assemble his side in the early stages of the campaign.

“I am disappointed we didn’t take any points tonight but the harsh reality is that Spain were better,” he said. “But I feel we have improved and if we had three or four games before we started the campaign we could have got a better start. I didn’t know my best team then. It has taken me over a year to feel we have a strong squad.

“The campaign started slowly as we tried to establish who were our best players, trying to pull it all together but the second part was better. We missed out this time but we are determined not to miss out the next time. For the World Cup, we will start from a better position, with a solid base.”

By contrast, Spain made an explosive start to the match in Alicante and have won each of their qualifying matches to emerge as group winners as expected. Steven Naismith was in awe at the Spanish performance last night.

“They’re unplayable,” said the Scotland midfielder. “They move the ball so quickly, it’s hard to track it. We could have defended a little better but that’s why they are the champions.

“We tried to get forward as much as we could, but when they had possession we couldn’t get into them as they’d carve us open. But over 90 minutes and two games against them, we showed up well and scored three goals.”

David Goodwillie scored from the penalty spot after two goals from David Silva and one from David Villa had drained Scotland of their hopes of reaching the play-offs.

Levein must now turn his attention to the forthcoming World Cup campaign and believes his team have shown plenty of promise. “The result is disappointing,” said the Scotland manager. “We don’t like to lose, but I told the players that this is as hard as it gets. To come to the home of the world and European champions is difficult for anyone. They played close to maximum, but I give our players enormous credit for the way they stuck at it and made chances.”

Michal Bilek, the Czech Republic manager, believes his side deserved to pip the Scots to second place in Group I. “We had our match under control from very early on and we won deservedly,” he said. “The table does not lie and we deserved to finish second. But for us the hard work starts her. I am sure we can qualify.”

Taken from the Herald

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