Manager Alex McLeish has vowed to keep trying to make amends for Scotland’s shock defeat in Kazakhstan – and claims there will be twists and turns in their European Championship qualifying group.
McLeish and his players have come under fire after a 3-0 loss against the world’s 117th-ranked team in their opening Group I encounter, with their chances of automatic qualification already written off in many quarters.
Scotland have only once reached a major tournament after losing their opening qualifier, when they recovered from defeat against then European champions Czechoslovakia to make the 1978 World Cup.
Nations League success has earned Scotland a guaranteed play-off place should they fail to finish in the top two of a group also containing Belgium, Russia, Cyprus and San Marino, who host McLeish’s men on Sunday.
But McLeish is determined to make it up the supporters bit by bit and not wait until next year’s Nations League resumption.
“The only apology we can give the fans is to go out and win the next game,” he said.
“We are all hurting. We’re fans as well. I followed the team as a young man and I was always proud to wear the jersey. And these guys are as well.
“They don’t mean to play badly. They don’t mean to have one off night. In recent months they have shown some great skills, some great results, and we just need to continue with a little bit of continuity in terms of selection of the squad.
“We just have to concentrate on winning the next game, and if we can do that, we try and win the game after that.”
San Marino head coach Franco Varrella claims he has had a long-standing love affair with Scotland since the days of Andy Roxburgh.
The 66-year-old was assistant to Italy manager Arrigo Sacchi in the mid 1990s and has worked for the coaching education departments of the Italian Football Federation and UEFA for more than a decade.
He is a long-standing admirer of Roxburgh, who led Scotland to the 1990 World Cup and 1992 European Championship, before going on to become UEFA technical director.
Competing in major tournaments seems an even more distant memory to Scotland supporters following Thursday’s 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan, but the man guiding their next opponents has not lost his affection ahead of Sunday’s game.
Varrella said: “I have been in love with Scotland since Andy Roxburgh was the coach. I know they are angry because they lost and they want to make up for it but we want to show we are mentally strong and we will fight for 90 minutes.
“I liked that he brought new ideas to the field and he was the first one to detach himself a bit from the Anglo-Saxon way of playing football. I loved everything he did.
“What I love about Scotland is that they are Scotland from the first minute to the 91st.”
San Marino opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a 5-0 defeat in Cyprus and midfielder Enrico Golinucci laughed when asked if Scotland’s opening result had given them hope of ending a run of 27 consecutive defeats.
“It wasn’t exactly hope,” he said. “We want to do well but we are well aware that there’s a huge gap between your players and our players. We know we are the underdogs but we will do our best to stop you winning.”