Scotland boss vows to persevere after latest defeat

Alex McLeish insists he will turn it around for Scotland in two “cup finals” next month despite ending a difficult week with a 3-1 defeat by Portugal at Hampden Park.

The Scotland boss came in for widespread criticism after his team lost 2-1 to Israel in the Nations League on Thursday night  and a much-changed Scots side were beaten in a low-key friendly by the 2016 European Championship winners, who were far from their strongest.

Debutant Helder Costa scored for the visitors just before the break and further goals in the second half from Eder and Bruma put Portugal in easy street before Steven Naismith grabbed a late consolation.

McLeish has won twice and lost six since returning to the Hampden hot seat in February but, ahead of the final Nations League Group C1 games against Albania away and Israel at home,  he is confident of sealing top spot and a guaranteed Euro 2020 play-off.

Portugal’s Helder Costa scores his side’s first goal
Portugal’s Helder Costa scores his side’s first goal (Jane Barlow/PA)

“For years, every time you lose a game you know there is going to be criticism, you have to take it on the chin and bounce back up,” he said.

“It’s about resilience. I’ve had a few knocks in the past and also a lot of success.

“It’s never easy to lose and of course that was a tough weekend but I have to stand up and be brave and take that and take it forward.

“There are other examples of managers being under the cosh in recent times, Michael O’Neill (Northern Ireland) and Stanislav Cherchesov in the Russian camp, and they persevered and came through it. I’ll always retain that determination.

Scotland’s Steven Naismith grabbed a late consolation
Scotland’s Steven Naismith grabbed a late consolation (Jane Barlow/PA)

“We’ll do everything we can to qualify that next month. We’re in that group with Israel and Albania for a reason. It’s because of the rankings.  I will look at them as cup finals. We want to win the two of them. We look for everyone to be on their A game when it comes to those two games.”

McLeish claimed his side repeated their mistakes from the 4-0 friendly defeat by Belgium last month.

He said: “We shoot ourselves in the foot against the two top teams, Belgium and Portugal, with the basic errors that we made. That’s the disappointing aspect of it. You expect the top teams to cut through you with some majestic skill and leave you trailing but we were the perpetrators of our own mistakes.

“I thought we played well. I thought there was a lot of good football. But we knew we were up against top-class players. I know there was a lot of Portugal players rested but there was still a lot of money on the pitch.”

Much has been made about McLeish favouring three at the back. The former Scotland defender had little option but to change to a four when his trio of defenders in Haifa  -John Souttar, Charlie Mulgrew and Kieran Tierney – were unavailable through either injury or fatigue but he will wait before he deciding what formation to use against Albania.

He said: “I know every system there is to know, I’ve coached teams before with three at the back, it’s been quite fashionable recently.

“We want to adapt to different formations. It’s about getting the right balance. For the Albania game it really worked.

“I am not making any decision at this moment. With two games next month we will have long and hard chats about that.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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