Future may be brighter as new boys sparkle in loss to Dutch at Pittodrie

Scotland v Netherlands at Pittodrie Stadium

Interim national manager Malky Mackay believes his experimental side silenced critics of the Scottish Premiership.

Nine of the starting 11 in the 1-0 friendly loss to Holland at Pittodrie ply their trade in the nation’s top flight.

Two of those were from Aberdeen – Ryan Christie and Kenny McLean.

Mackay hailed the new look side’s technical prowess, tactical awareness and bravery in a game which signalled the first steps on the road to the Euro 2020 campaign.

He said: “People have knocked the technique of Scottish footballers, but we were very comfortable against a top team.

“We have a lot of young, talented hungry Scottish footballers.

“Against Holland, we started with nine players from the Scottish Premiership and created 18 chances.

“That says a lot about them. I am really proud of the players as they showed real bravery.

“We had a young team and they were very tactically aware of the game plan I asked of them.

“They are technically good players.

“Why this group cannot go on to have 50 caps each I don’t know. They just have to keep that belief and the club atmosphere.

“I said to them that when we go into Euro 2020 qualification and play like that against teams – then we win.”

It was Scotland’s first defeat of 2017, but this friendly was all about 2020 – and the start of the rebuilding for the Euro campaign.

Within this low-key defeat, in front of an impressive crowd numbering 17,833, were roots of revival as the new breed showed they can have a role in the Euro 2020 bid.

The three debutant caps, Aberdeen’s Christie, former Dons skipper Ryan Jack (Rangers) and Callum McGregor (Celtic) proved they can operate at international level.

Others still taking early international steps, such as Dons midfielder McLean, earning his second cap, and Hibs’ impressive John McGinn, did not look out of place against the Dutch.

Fundamental to the Euro 2020 bid will be a new manager, with the Scottish Football Association confirming it will not be Mackay, who will return to his role as performance director.

Whoever is appointed, Gordon Strachan’s successor must continue to bring through this emerging talent as too many of Scotland’s old guard have been culpable for multiple failed qualification bids.

Although not as extreme as rip it up and start again, it is definitely time to reassess and give young blood a chance.

There are similarities between the nations as both are suffering from a lack of confidence having missed out on the World Cup and both will be searching for new managers.

The only difference is Holland, beaten World Cup finalists in 2010 and semi-finalists four years later, have fallen much further from grace.

Failure is a new notion for the Dutch.

Frustratingly, with 20 years of failed qualifications, Scotland and the Tartan Army are used to it.

Just three minutes into this friendly the match ball had to be changed as it was flat.

If ever there was an image summing up Scottish international football over the last two decades it was that – the ba’s burst.

The SFA are still searching for the right candidate to re-inflate it.

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan confirmed there is a sizeable list of candidates to succeed Strachan, including overseas managers.

With no outstanding Scottish candidates, I would not be averse to the SFA going down the foreign route.

It worked for Iceland with Lars Lagerback, who led the tiny nation to Euro 2016 before handing over the reins to Heimir Hallgrímsson, who followed up with World Cup qualification.

There was déjà vu in the Granite City as the last Scotland international at Pittodrie was the debut of Strachan – a 1-0 friendly win over Estonia in February 2013.

Nearly five years on after doomed bids for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, Scotland are no further forward.

There will be 24 teams at Euro 2020 – Scotland must qualify for that, especially with the Uefa Nations League also offering a route to the finals – and with Euro games being staged at Hampden.

Friendlies offer the freedom to experiment and Mackay utilised it with left-back Kieran Tierney in at centre-back.

Midfielder Jack started at right-back and winger Matt Phillips played up front.

There was to be no debut cap for Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie, who was on the bench.

For Aberdeen’s McLean and Christie, and also Shinnie, the challenge is to use this as a catalyst to push for involvement in the Euro bid.

Not since Scott Severin in 2006 has an Aberdeen player featured in a competitive game for Scotland.

Scotland created the first chance when a Matt Phillips 15-yard drive was saved by keeper Jaspe Cillessen.

The fare in the first half hour was poor and again it was Forrest who squirmed a shot well wide of target in the 27th minute.

At least it was a shot, Holland had offered very little until Memphis Depay forced Craig Gordon into a save soon after.

Skipper Tierney unleashed a superb 35-yard drive in the 36th minute that forced a save from Cillessen.

Holland grabbed the lead in the 40th minute from a swift counter attack initiated from a poor McGregor pass.

The Scots struggled to regroup and Ryan Babel’s cross along the face of goal found DEPAY, who was left unmarked to side-foot home from five yards.

In the 68th minute, McGregor unleashed a vicious 22-yard shot that forced a save from Cillessen with McLean shooting wide soon after.

Aberdonian and former Don Ryan Fraser came on for Forrest in the 71st minute and nearly made an immediate impact.

The Bournemouth winger skipped past two challenges to break into the box and shot inches wide from 18 yards.

Another substitute Jason Cummings came close to scoring within a minute of his introduction, but the keeper saved his low 15-yard drive late on.

SCOTLAND: Gordon, Jack, Robertson, Tierney, Berra, McLean, Forrest, McGinn, Phillips, McGregor, Christie.

Subs: Mulgrew (for Berra 46), Fraser (for Forrest 71), Cummings (for McGregor 86)

Subs not used: Marshall, Archer, Shinnie, Paterson, Cooper, Hanlon.

HOLLAND: Cillessen, Fosu-Mensah, Van Dijk, Rekik, Ake, Blind, Promes, Strootman, Babel, Mijnaldum, Memphis.

Subs: Veltman (for Fosu-Mensah 71), Berghuis (for Promes 76),

Subs not used: Zoet, Padt, Van Ginkel, de Ligt, Van de Beek.

Referee: Ruddy Buquet (France).

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