Scotland’s new era under Alex McLeish began with a whimper not a bang as his experimental side fell disappointingly flat.
In a positive move McLeish handed out four debut caps in his starting line-up against World Cup-bound Costa Rica.
It was an admirable, and brave, experiment as McLeish looked to freshen up the squad and bring new direction ahead of the Euro 2020 qualification bid.
However, as former Dons boss Ebbe Skovdahl once said: “The operation was a success but the patient died”.
Blooding the new caps was the right step, which will ideally pay dividends in the Euro 2020 bid – but ultimately the Scots lost.
In the build-up to this game, McLeish had underlined the need to foster a winning mentality and said he wanted the play to be gallus.
It is very early days, but Scotland will have to play with more urgency and hold possession better going forward.
Ultimately, this was the first tentative step in McLeish’s rebuilding – against a nation with whom he had old scores to settle.
McLeish was in the Scotland team which suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in the World Cup 1990.
History repeated itself. It is now McLeish’s job to ensure history does not repeat itself with regards Scotland’s depressing list of failed qualification bids dating back to 1998.
A debut Scotland cap marked another significant landmark in the meteoric rise of Dons centre-back Scott McKenna, one of the hottest properties in Scottish football.
This time last year the 21-year-old wasn’t even getting game time on loan at an Ayr United side rock bottom off the Championship.
Few are better placed to assess a centre-back than Scotland and Aberdeen legend McLeish, who excelled in that role.
Such is McKenna’s growing standing, the Scotland gaffer had no hesitation in throwing him in from the start.
The only time the young Don had been stripped at Hampden for action was in a Scottish Cup replay against Queens Park last January.
Only 1,026 fans were there and he didn’t even get off the bench.
How times have changed. Aberdeen rejected four approaches for McKenna from Hull in January, with the most recent in excess of £1 million.
McKenna recently signed a contract extension until summer 2023, which is a major coup for the Dons.
If his current career trajectory continues, a £1m price tag will be small change.
The Dons defender started in a three-man defence alongside skipper Charlie Mulgrew and Grant Hanley.
McKenna was very strong physically and used the ball well and can be pleased with his contribution, as can Barnsley striker Oli McBurnie.
LACK OF TEMPO COST SCOTS
McLeish accepted the bid to qualify for Euro 2020 knowing he was not just second choice – but third choice.
Following the disastrous courting of Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill, the SFA sounded out Walter Smith before moving for McLeish.
Having left the Scotland post in 2007 to take on the Birmingham City job, his appointment could be seen as treading water or even regressive.
By going for youth, his squad selection looked to the future and was positive. They just couldn’t get the result to back it up.
When the new-look squad met for the first time on Sunday, McLeish showed them a motivational film packed with Scotland’s greatest moments.
If McLeish had hoped for that footage to fire them up for a high energy, pressing start at Hampden it failed.
There was no tempo from the Scots in the opening spell and they were ripped open by Costa Rica for the opener in the 14th minute.
Bryan Oviedo broke down the right and with three centre-backs, wing-back Callum Paterson should have ushered him into the central area.
Instead he allowed him to break down the wing into acres of space.
His reverse pass found Marco URENA, who calmly slotted a right-footed shot beyond Allan McGregor.
Moments later, Paterson headed just wide when connecting with a Matt Ritchie corner.
Scotland were next denied in the 28th minute when McBurnie eluded two defenders to open up space to shoot.
Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas got down quickly to block the 15-yard drive.
The Scots had a soft penalty claim rejected when Andy Robertson drilled the ball across goal and McBurnie went down as he attempted to connect.
There was minimal contact made on McBurnie and referee Tobias Stieler rightly waved off appeals for a spot-kick.
At half-time there were a few boos from the Tartan Army. Scotland’s tempo was far too lethargic and they struggled to retain possession.
Costa Rica were denied a second in the 48th minute when Bryan Ruiz got in behind Robertson on the right and cracked a 15-yard drive off the bar from a tight angle.
In the 66th minute Matt Ritchie was played in on goal and his powerful 20-yard drive was pushed upwards by Navas with the ball dropping onto the roof of the net.
From the resultant corner McBurnie headed wide.
In the 81st minute Ritchie latched on to a cross from Robertson at the near post, but his shot was straight at Navas.
Next up is Hungary on Tuesday and hopefully McLeish runs the rule over the rising stars again.
SCOTLAND: McGregor, Paterson, Robertson, Hanley, Mulgrew, McKenna, McTominay, McDonald, McBurnie, Cairney, Ritchie.
Subs: Armstrong (for McTominay 58), McGregor (for Cairney 58), Phillips (for McBurnie 78), McGinn (for Mulgrew 82), Murphy (for Ritchie 87).
Subs not used: Archer, McLaughlin, Christie, Forrest, Douglas, Cummings, McLean, Fraser, Hendry.
COSTA RICA: Navas, Acosta, Gonzalez, Duarte, Gamboa, Oviedo, Borges, Guzman, B. Ruiz, Colindres, Urena.
Subs: Tejeda (for Guzman 55), Wallace (for Colindres 63), Y. Ruiz (for Urena 69), Smith (for Gamboa 75), Calvo (for Oviedo 78).
Subs not used: Moreira, Briceno, Segura, Mitchell, Azofeifa, Waston, Gutierrez.
Referee: Tobias Stieler (Germany).