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Japan 2-0 Scotland

Woes continue for second-string Scotland

October 11, 2009
By Andy Moir

Scotland manager George Burley remained defiant in defeat by insisting the much maligned friendly with Japan was a valuable fixture. The match was marred by several high profile withdrawals forcing Burley to draft in replacement after replacement to further compound what has been tagged a disastrous exercise.

Lee Wallace of Scotland
GettyImagesLee Wallace of Scotland looks dejected during the Kirin Challenge Cup in Japan.

• Cursed Scotland trip ends in defeat

Big name players like captain and Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher and Tottenham's Alan Hutton were forced to pull out. That saw Japan coach Takeshi Okada launch a blistering attack at Burley saying they should have been told Scotland would be bringing a skeleton squad out to the Far East.

Maybe Burley should have known he was going to be up against it even before a ball was kicked. The ill fated fixture couldn't have got off to a much worse start when Burley's boys were embroiled in flight drama at Heathrow on the way out.

A jet carrying the squad had to pull out of landing moments before it was due to touch down at Heathrow airport. Another plane was believed to be occupying the runway as the plane made its final approach. They were stopping in London to catch an onward flight to Japan.

Many pundits had already questioned the wisdom of playing a friendly in the middle of crucial domestic European clashes which only further turned up the heat on Burley. So what else could really go wrong for the Scotland manager after such a daunting start to the match?

Well just to round off a disappointing fixture for the Scots in Yokohama Christophe Berra scored an own goal before a late second from Keisuke Honda sealed the 2-0 victory.

To make matters worse Scotland failed to register even a single shot at Japan's goals although Steven Fletcher should have made more of a great opportunity. But Burley still reckons he's now got food for thought ahead of the friendly next month against Wales in Cardiff.

However, he seems to be just putting a positive spin on what has ultimately proved to be a pointless clash. It seems football managers these days have to adopt an almost politician like stance when trying to promote their own team in after match interviews.

"It was a game where the education you get from coming to places like this is tremendous and the journey wasn't a problem," said Burley. "We had horrendous luck with injuries for this game. I'm sure it will be better for the next but what it's done is given me a look at a number of players.

"When you're only talking about four or five games now before we play in the European Championship qualifiers, it's important we have a look at players and it's important we get some of our experienced players back as well. The players who came in gave their all so it was certainly a worthwhile exercise.

"Considering that it was virtually a team thrown together I thought their discipline was superb. It was a great occasion for the players to participate in at one of the best stadiums in the world. It was a terrific atmosphere with 61,000 fans there and I think 500 were Scottish supporters which was great."

Scotland woe in Japan
GettyImagesThe Scotland team look dejected in Japan

Despite Burley's upbeat reaction the honest truth is that Scotland's new look side failed to gel as a unit. It was virtually one way traffic with hosts Japan in total control although the Scots did at times pose a fleeting threat.

However, they never really created much for Lee Miller in attack – a player who has yet to score for his club side Aberdeen. Miller had hoped his international call up would kick start his season as he's a striker in desperate need of a goal.

Burley, who received the backing of the Scottish Football Association despite failing to reach next summer's World Cup finals, believes the Japan experiment will help him to further mould his team. He's now building towards qualifying for the European Championship finals a competition he simply has to get to or else face more questions about his future as the national boss.

But will any of the new players who made their international debuts in the Land of the Rising Sun actually figure under Burley in the new campaign?

Scotland's shortcomings again fall up front and scoring goals will again be a problem come the start of the European Championship qualifiers. And on the evidence of their latest fixture it's unlikely any of the new caps will have done enough to force their way into contention for European Championship qualifiers.

Defensively Scotland will always be reasonably strong but Burley has to find the right blend and balance going forward if he's going to guide his team to Poland and Ukraine in 2012.