Belgium 2 Scotland 0: Lessons as pressure increases on Craig Levein
Belgium 2 Scotland 0: What did we learn as Craig Levein's men lose in Brussels to all but end their 2014 World Cup hopes
Time is running out for Levein
When Craig Levein left Dundee United to take Scottish football’s top job at the beginning of 2010, the task ahead of him was an unenviable one. Scotland, who haven’t qualified for a major tournament since 1998, have found themselves on a steady decline as their personnel fell well short of the quality offered by previous generations. Gone are the days of a nation being able to call on players of the quality of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Gary McAllister, but the players now available to Scotland are no worse than the Republic of Ireland who qualified for the last European championship. Levein has not made easy work of the task, with the most memorable points of a troubled reign undoubtedly being his falling out with star striker Steven Fletcher and his overtly cautious approach, best summed up by a bizarre 6-4-0 formation in an away defeat by the Czech Republic. Following successive losses to Wales and Belgium and with fans despondent following another disappointing qualifying campaign, it is difficult to see a future for Levein as Scotland manager.
Scotland’s slim qualification hopes all but gone
Inevitably, the 2-0 defeat by the impressive Belgians in Brussels has surely ended any hope Scotland have of qualifying for Brazil in four years’ time. Having picked up a measly two points from a possible 12, the next World Cup will once again pass without the presence of the Tartan Army and their long-suffering fans. And how it should of all been so different. The Scots could not have asked for a more favourable opening, yet are still to win. If the inevitable occurs and Levein does indeed fall on his sword, then attentions will turn to a successor, and the search for someone who can galvanise a group of decent professionals and mould them into a side that can compete above its abilities and pick up results in qualifying games. As for now, restoring some of the pride shattered in the past week will be the first priority.
Belgium putting together their own golden generation
You may have to say it quietly for now, but this is surely the best and most exciting Belgium side in over two decades. Remembered for the days of Enzo Scifo and co and a consistent run of qualifying for tournaments throughout the 1990s, Belgium are now experiencing a new generation of impressive talents. Eden Hazard, perhaps the pick of this new generation of Belgian stars, was left on the bench as his side comfortably brushed aside Scotland and continued to live up to the hype and excitement surrounding them. Goals from Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke and Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany sealed the victory in what was a dominant performance that should have produced even more goals for the hosts. Assisted by players such as Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele, Belgium look a sure bet to qualify for their first major tournament since they were a host nation of Euro 2000. And although still very early days, do not bet against the Belgians causing surprises in Brazil, with 2014 being a peak time for many of their exciting young talents.