SCOTLAND like Croatia is a small country. We haven’t qualified for either the World Cup or even the European Championships this century yet on Sunday Croatia will play France in the World Cup Final in Moscow.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has been talking about the World Cup and he reckons that there must be lessons in how the Croatians set about playing their football for Scotland to learn.
“Croatia should be a real eye opener for a lot of countries. I’ve been very impressed with them but not just Croatia – look at Uruguay’s population as well which is very small.
“People will look to the likes of Germany and Brazil and the big countries but if you’re a small nation it’s probably worthwhile looking at Croatia and Uruguay to see what they’re doing.
“Consistently now Croatia have, over a period of years, produced teams that have qualified and now they’re in a World Cup final.
“I’ve been very impressed by that for a really small country. They’ve produced players like Vedran Corluka who came on in the semi-final and Dejan Lovren is in there playing, Ivan Perisic.
“You could go through the squad – very talented players. It should give a great inspiration to countries like Scotland as they’re showing it can be done.
“I haven’t personally studied what they do but from a distance I’ve always been impressed by the level of players they can produce.
“It can’t be an accident, not when you’re sustaining it and qualifying regularly for European Championships and World Cups.
“They clearly have a spirit to fight, certainly in my experience of working with players from Croatia and Serbia, they have a passion in playing for their country but individually they want to fight.
“And they play a really good level technical game. A lot of them come from a real good technical base and they’re very impressive.”
Brendan has on several occasions commented on the tactics that can be used in the Scottish game that he believes contributes to the disappointments suffered by the national team, which once had a very decent record in reaching finals.
He was referring to the long ball, hit and hope stuff, that he’s seen and reckons players should be more comfortable in possession of the football than they actually are in Scotland.
“Lots of people are happy to work that way so you can’t then cry when you come into the national team and wonder why your players don’t keep the ball.
“It comes from kids and then from influences throughout as well. It’s something Malky Mackay and his team are looking to address.
“There are certainly enough gifted players up here who can work in a really specific way. I’ve always believed that from when I first came up here and especially so now having seen it myself for the last two years.
“You have players with a really good level of physicality – they are quick and powerful. If you can mould it all together and play in a definitive way, then hopefully you can get results from it.”
Celtic are of course the biggest suppliers of players to the national team. Is it too much of an ask for the Scotland manager to look at playing the game along similar lines to Celtic?
Time will tell on how Alex McLeish sees things.