John McGinn has warned Scotland that another performance similar to the one posted against Kazakhstan on Thursday could see them lose to the worst team in world football.
Alex McLeish’s team landed in Rimini last night ahead of tomorrow’s Group I clash with San Marino for what has become a salvage operation after just one game of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
Scotland let themselves badly down in central Asia and the Aston Villa midfielder, who was replaced after 69 minutes by Scott McTominay, admits it has the potential to get worse tomorrow if they do no show more pride in their performance. At 117 in the world, Kazakhstan are the lowest-ranked side the Scots have lost against since the introduction of Fifa’s ranking system. San Marino sit down at 211 – the lowest rank possible at present. It seems inconceivable that Scotland could slip up against the group’s bottom seeds but then few expected they would come unstuck in such comprehensive fashion on Thursday.
“Kazakhstan away is a game we should win,” the former Hibs player accepted. “I think we went into the game as favourites.
“They’re no mugs – at international level no one is. But if you go in with a performance like that anyone will beat you. Even the game at the weekend, if we go to San Marino with that attitude and that performance we will get done. It’s as simple as that. It’s up to us to puff our chests out and get the result that we need on Sunday.”
Scotland will be cheered on by around six times the number of fans who followed them on the 4,000 mile journey to Kazakhstan. “The supporters that paid good money to travel here a long way didn’t deserve a performance like that and the players and staff won’t shy away from that,” said McGinn.
“I feel gutted. There is no hiding away from how poor a performance it was. It wasn’t a great night for us but we have to do the best we can to try to lift ourselves up from it and take it onto Sunday. We know how important that is now to try and kick-start our campaign.”
McGinn pulled no punches yesterday. One of the under-performers, he stressed it was the players rather than the manager who had to shoulder most of the blame.
“The fault lies with the players really,” he said. “The manager put out a team and a system he felt could go and win the game and ultimately we didn’t perform.
“As a group we need to take it on the chin,” he added. “We know there will be plenty of criticism that comes our way and that’s just part and parcel (of it).”
James Forrest had scored a hat-trick on his previous outing for Scotland but suffered like every one of his teammates against Kazakhstan on Thursday.
The Celtic winger passed up one opportunity to cut the three-goal deficit with a volley just before the hour mark. He miskicked when he should have burst the net.
Everything he did turned to gold in November against Israel when he became the first Celtic player to score three times for Scotland since Jimmy Quinn more than a hundred years earlier.
It was the other extreme two days ago when he and his team-mates could not put a foot right. But he insists Scotland have the talent and, perhaps more importantly, the character to turn things round in the group after such a dismal start, starting against San Marino tomorrow. “It couldn’t have gone worse with it being the first game of the campaign, it’s really disappointing,” said the 27 year-old. “We have to try and lift ourselves and take three points forward on Sunday.
“The last camp was probably the best time I’d had ever being away with Scotland. There was a real feel-good factor and now we’ve had this terrible night and we have to pick ourselves up. We were all right for the first few minutes but it meant nothing after they scored and then scored again not long after the first one. From there, they grew in confidence. We didn’t get started at all.”
Forrest said he was reminded of the last time he played in the Astana Arena. Celtic suffered a shock as they sought to defend a seemingly unassailable 5-0 first-leg lead in last season’s Champions League qualifier against FC Astana. They were briefly 4-1 down before rallying to lose 4-3, winning 8-4 on aggregate.
“I’ve been here a couple of times with Celtic and it felt similar to that time we were 4-1 down, they scored and grew in confidence and we were sloppy in possession and just never really got going,” he said.
“We can talk but everyone was here and felt good and were working on things, but we never got going.
“Obviously, after the last camp we topped the group in the last couple of games and it proves we’ve got the players. We’ve just got to show it more on the park. We didn’t do that against Kazakhstan but hopefully we can redeem ourselves on Sunday and then we’ve got two games in the summer to kick start what we didn’t start tonight.”