Strachan faces up to massive task
NOVI SAD, Serbia (AFP) –
Gordon Strachan says he needs to rebuild his squad after Scotland became the first European country to be eliminated from World Cup qualifying.
Filip Djuricic scored a second-half double on Tuesday as Serbia condemned Scotland to a 2-0 defeat to end their bid to qualify for the 2014 finals with four games remaining.
Strachan’s side had headed to Serbia firmly rooted to the bottom of Group A with no wins and just two points from five games but still with an extremely slim mathematical chance of World Cup qualification.
However, Djuricic struck twice in five second half minutes to kill off any hopes as Scotland slipped to their fourth straight defeat in Group A.
Scotland have now gone seven competitive matches without a win for the first time in their history as the scale of the task facing Strachan, who took over from the sacked Craig Levein in January, becomes apparent.
“I’m always disappointed after the games but I can see the picture clearer now,” the 56-year-old said.
“I don’t think anyone has a problem with the fact that we have to rebuild and start again.
“And that’s not because of any manager that has come before, it’s just the state of Scottish football and where we are at the moment.”
Strachan had reshuffled his side for the match, making six changes from the 2-1 defeat to Wales last Friday.
Brighton’s Liam Bridcutt and Hull’s George Boyd were both handed their debuts while Jordan Rhodes was handed his first competitive start and Steven Whittaker made his first start in 2013.
And the Scotland manager saw enough in their performances to merit some optimism.
“We’re going to have to rebuild and find a new group of players along with the ones who have done well here,” he said.
“It’s a hard job but tonight there are loads of things I think I can work with.
“The fact is we’ve had young players coming in over the last couple of games and doing well.
“We know that there are players out there who’ve not played for a while for various reasons in terms of injuries and we know they’ll come back.
“So if we put together the younger players coming through with the experienced ones we have a strong squad.
“I think Grant Hanley and Liam Bridcutt can be really pleased with themselves and I think we can add them for the future. Considering the surface I thought they did well.
“George Boyd showed in flashes some of the things we are expecting of him. Even Jordan Rhodes, his link-up play was good tonight which people had been worried about.
“And the rest of the boys did as well as they could. Steven Whittaker was phenomenal considering he hasn’t played in three months. To come here and put his name forward to play is just fantastic.
“Charlie Adam is not getting a game and he came on and I thought he did really well. So there are some positives.”
Scotland now face the prospect of going through the entire campaign without a win with tough matches against second-placed Croatia home and away, group leaders Belgium at Hampden and a trip to Macedonia to come.