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Opinion: Gordon Strachan shouldn't blame 'genetics' for Scottish football's failings

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As a person, Gordon Strachan is often entertaining in soundbites and he has a difficult job in international football, managing one of the smallest nations and picking from an even smaller talent pool. Despite this, however, he has utterly embarrassed himself with his recent comments suggesting that genetics are behind Scotland’s failure to qualify for the 2018 Russian World Cup.

In an utterly bizarre interview, Strachan claimed: "Genetically, we are behind," before adding, "In the last campaign we were the second smallest, apart from Spain. Maybe we get big women and men together and see what we can do". 

There are three key words in this that automatically render his views obsolete...

“Apart from Spain.” Yes it’s well known Spain have struggled due to their lack of physical presence on the international stage- how do such slight tiny specks like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Juan Mata cope with how physical the game is? Not to mention Lionel Messi, or N’Golo Kante? Their struggles at international level have been well-documented, it’s not as if a bulk of that list form a solid core of one of the best national squads in modern football history.

When speaking about the disappointing draw against Slovenia, which sealed the fate of the Tartan Army, the Scotland manager also had the temerity to say, "Nobody can tell me that, apart from one player, they are technically better than our players". I would happily argue that Jasmin Kurtic and Josip Illicic (both at Atalanta) regularly play against teams on a superior level to the Scottish Premier League, English Championship and lower echelons of the Premier League which the majority of the Scottish squad come from.

The performance on Sunday was certainly nothing to write home about either. Barry Bannan was the best player for Scotland, his industrious work ethic a stark contrast to Matt Phillip’s disappearing act. Both Chris Martin and Leigh Griffiths never really looked like testing Jan Oblak excessively and the wingback play from Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney- arguably Scotland’s most talented player- was severely lacking in comparison to recent performances. They were dominated in terms of possession and shots and in truth a draw was probably flattering for Stratchan’s men.

But one result doesn’t define a whole qualification campaign. Drawing one apiece with Lithuania at Hampden over one year ago demonstrated the limitations of the Scottish side and was an obvious example of two points dropped. Being dismantled by Slovakia and England by 3 goals to nil in the next two qualifiers certainly didn’t boost any confidence.

Even the home draw against England should have been so much more, considering they found themselves 2-1 up going into the final minute of added time following Leigh Griffith’s superb brace of free kicks, but once more they contrived to shoot themselves in the foot and drop more precious points.

Beating Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia gave the Scots a glimmer of hope, but as seems to be all too common with this Scottish outfit, they blew it. Even when Snodgrass levelled late on Scotland, it was a sense of too little too late. With a number of key players rapidly reaching thirty-plus and surely contemplating international retirement, Scottish football shows no sign of improving in the short term. And no Gordon, genetics are not the problem. Numbers, quality and mentality are the real problem.




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