Time for Levein to deal in realism

Scotland manager Craig Levein

Craig Levein, as expected, stated after Tuesday night's draw with Macedonia that qualification for World Cup 2014 was still a genuine possibility for Scotland.

He also said he believed he still had the backing of the Scotland supporters - the same fans who, when a close-up of the manager was shown on the big screen during the second half, booed loudly, as they had done on several occasions during a match that for long spells did not go as they would have liked.

Levein is not a stupid man, but pronouncements like those fly in the face of the evidence at hand.

Yes, there are still eight games to go in the group. Yes, Scotland are only two points behind the group leaders. And yes, Scotland can play much better than they have shown in the opening two matches.

But, over the course of the 180 minutes or so of football at Hampden, there was precious little to suggest this Scotland team can realistically consider going to Macedonia or Serbia, not to mention Croatia or Belgium, and expect to come back with points.

Levein's side have been out-passed, out-thought and generally out-classed by both opponents so far.

He and the players talk of a need for everyone - the media and supporters - to get behind the team, to stop being negative in order to improve the chances of success.

But one must deal in realism and the manager and players must give the media and fans something to latch onto, a shred of hope, a reason to believe that this campaign will not be yet another tale of woe.

As Levein points out, we're all Scotland fans, so the will exists for the manager and the team to do well.

No-one benefits from failure.

Scotland's Shaun Maloney
Shaun Maloney was unable to fire Scotland to victory on a frustrating night at Hampden

But while a dose of optimism from the squad is to be expected and, indeed, welcomed, there must be an acceptance that what has been offered by them thus far has to be constructively criticised.

Why, for instance, did the team start the match against Macedonia so slowly? Why was the passing so laborious, so inadequate?

Much has been made of the number of players Scotland now have plying their trade in the "best league in the world" - the English Premier League.

Why then did Macedonia look like a far superior side in terms of touch, skill and vision for much of the game?

Scotland lack the swagger of a Graeme Souness or even a Barry Ferguson at the moment.

Someone who has the belief they are good enough to be on the same park as anyone and whose self-belief rubs off on his team-mates.

Levein accepts that but, as manager, he has to try to instil that belief in the squad, and quickly.

Judging by the response of many supporters, few tears would be shed if he were to leave the job right now, but that won't happen.

While privately he may be a touch less optimistic about qualifying than he publicly admits, Levein at least does have belief in his own ability, and that of his players.

He stresses they can play better.

If they don't show that against Wales and Belgium next month, even he may begin to question whether Brazil 2014 is a likely destination.

Follow Alasdair Lamont on Twitter.

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