Scotland UNDER-21s head coach Billy Stark remained defiant and upbeat despite his side’s 4-0 European qualifying defeat by the Netherlands.
Hearts stars Jason Holt and Jordan McGhee started the match, while Callum Paterson was a second-half substitute. McGhee, 17, became the fourth youngest player ever to represent Scotland at this level after Islam Feruz, Christian Dailly and Derek Young.
Stark and his players were desperate to atone for their 6-0 friendly defeat by England last month and dominated the first half in Nijmegen.
But Tony Watt, Ryan Fraser and Stuart Armstrong failed to convert the best chances of the half and the hosts took the lead through a deflected strike by Feyenoord midfielder Tonny Trindade de Vilhena in the 52nd minute.
The game then ran away from Scotland in a cruel 10-minute phase, starting midway through the half when Fraser had a great chance saved.
Celtic centre-back Stuart Findlay – who was drafted into the defence along with McGhee – then headed against the post, before Luc Castaignos, Mike van der Hoorn and substitute Jesper Drost quickly put the game beyond Scotland.
But Stark – who labelled the defeat an “injustice” – feels qualification is far from out of their reach following their second match of the campaign.
Stark, whose side beat Luxembourg 3-0 in their opening game, said: “We have only lost one game in these championships and proved that the England game was a freak.
“I’m proud of my players and people will look at the result and if people just want to look at results there’s nothing we can do about that.
“I couldn’t have said I would have been as confident we would play as well as that. I counted six clear-cut chances and you can’t say that is bad luck, but you look at the Dutch second goal and it was class finishing.”
Stark, who has led his side to consecutive second-placed finishes but not a finals tournament, is targeting another strong challenge ahead of games at home to Slovakia and away to Georgia away next month.
“We are going through a spell just now which is really tough,” he said. “Holland are favourites to win our group, so nothing has changed that much, as we knew this game was always going to be difficult.”
Stark added: “We took a risk by using young defenders in Stuart and Jordan, but they were tremendous against top players.”