Right, off for a quick swim then it's up to the pub for the football tonight. Some quick observations, just to show my amazing anti-Nostradamic qualities...
- The decision to drop superduper striker Kenny Miller will either make or break the manager, Craig Levein. Despite Miller's abysmal, no-goals-for-years-away-from-home record, dropping him has the pundits and fans in uproar. This is largely due to the Walterian standby of standing on your goal line and smashing every ball into low orbit, in the hope that Miller will pounce on a lazy backpass or something at the other end. This may work for Walter Smith, but Levein isn't Smith. I applaud the decision, at this point.
Nobody will call Levein a tactical genius if we win or draw, but the grudging credit he'd earn for the result might give him few matches to build his own team without the Glasgow media sawing off his balls and stuffing them down his neck. That's exactly what will happen if we lose, and the campaign to sack Levein will start tomorrow. Prediction - nobody will be able to think of a better replacement than Levein, but that won't stop anyone complaining.
- By picking only three outfield players from the SPL, the manager is explicitly saying that the SPL is utterly terrible and its players incapable of playing at this level. He's probably right.
- All-out-defence won't work for Levein. He's not Walter and Scotland aren't Rangers - neither has to worry about MacManus or Caldwell, primary villains in a number of heavy defeats for club and country. Still, both have played well in crucial games - against France, would be the most relevant.
- My heart says 2-1 to Scotland, but my head says 2-0 to the Czechs. Czech Republic may have been shit recently, but their team is still hugely superior to ours in every area of the park. After losing to Lithuania in comical circumstances, they won't take any crap from us and will probably look to score early.
- That said, one of the enduring qualities of recent Scotland teams is our ability to rise or fall to the occasion. We can look excellent against Holland and stink the place out against Liechtenstein. With obvious exceptions, we tend to put in better performances against tougher opposition.
- Still, you never know. Nobody likes playing against Scotland, except perhaps Norway. Let's hope we left the four-goal scuddings behind us when Burley got the bullet.
On with the strip it is - come on, the lads. I was eighteen the last time we qualified for anything and I hope I'm still young enough to eat solid food and walk unaided by the time we do it again. If we win, I'll publish an update. If we get gubbed, I'll probably delete the post and pretend none of this ever happened.
Update! Okay, that was horrible. The plan - defend like hell, pounce on loose balls and fling the ball up to four guys bombing forward - sounded good in theory, but fell down on one crucial flaw... It requires top class attacking play and good ball retention, and you might as well ask Scotland for the moon on a stick as that. Simply, we're not good enough.
In the end, it was desperate stuff. The Czechs were still able to find space in our box even with ten Scots in there, and the game instantly devolved into Scotland belting the ball away to the opponents, and them coming right back at us. Rozicky aside, the Czechs didn't even look like the type of team you'd need to go strikerless for. A low point, even for such a low era as this.
I made a point of referring to Smith in the post because Smith's teams are so well-drilled that they can pull off all-out defence, while Levein's clearly aren't. Back to the drawing board, because the Spaniards will eat that team for breakfast if we try a repeat performance.