Scottish fans should not dwell on misery after the team's resurgence
Scotland can be extremely proud.
Their dream of qualifying for Euro 2008 ended on Saturday in heart-breaking fashion as they lost 2-1 to Italy, but there is genuine hope and optimism for the future.
What Scotland have achieved in this qualifying campaign can be described as not only a success, but a great success.
At the start of qualifying, all thoughts were: Where will Scotland's next victory come from? Where will Scotland's next good performance come from? Where will Scotland's next decent player come from?
But over the last 14 months, the Scots have shown they can compete with the very best teams in the world.
There was to be no repeat on Saturday of the euphoria which followed the victories over the French but Scotland's performance was remarkable, especially when you consider they quickly went a goal down to the world champions.
Not only were the Scots full of urgency, energy and commitment, which you would expect, but there was genuine quality on display.
Some of Scotland's football played on the floor was really exciting and they matched the Italians.
There should be no danger of Scotland not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa
The Italians, going to a lesser nation, would never have expected a game like that. They were really given a run for their money.
Scotland got the ball on the deck, played it into feet and got it back. I was really impressed by the speed and technical ability of their play.
There was one move in the first half - the best of the game - that included three one-twos and Scotland cut the Italians wide open. And that was when Italy had eight or nine players behind the ball, not when they were stretched later in the match.
There's no doubt the result could have been different.
Particularly had James McFadden been able to convert a chance with around 80 minutes gone and the score at 1-1.
The timing of the chance did not help - at that stage of the match McFadden, who had been exceptional, was getting tired.
And in the build-up to the chance he had picked up the ball with his back to goal, gone past one player and then laid the ball off before sprinting 20 yards to catch up with the play.
McFadden came so close to realising Scotland's dream
Unfortunately, he just couldn't sprint quickly enough.
It might have looked an easy chance, as Kenny Miller crossed the ball low across the box, but it was not.
The ball, havig zipped off the wet surface, had just gone that little bit past McFadden.
Had the pitch been dry, the ball might not have skidded so much and McFadden would have tapped it in. It would have been a great goal but it just was not to be.
Ifs and buts aside, Scotland can hold their heads high and look forward to the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
The draw takes place on Sunday 25 November - and it's impossible for Scotland to get a tougher group than the one they were in for Euro 2008.
In addition, Scottish football is in a far healthier position - particularly with some promising youngsters coming through.
One of those prospects, right-back Alan Hutton, looks exceptional. He has come from nowhere, but at 22 years of age he looks as though he will be a superstar once he gets that little bit of extra experience.
It is imperative that youngsters keeps coming through and Scotland needs to restart that conveyor belt of the talent that they had in the 1970s and 80s.
The only way to do that is to have the national team doing well and generating a lot of good publicity about Scottish football.
As for the manager, Alex McLeish has shown that not only can he do the job, but that he can get the players to respond to him and do that little bit extra for him.
Scotland must tie McLeish to the job and let him get on with taking Scotland to the 2010 World Cup and ending what will be a 12-year absence from major finals.
If the Scots can maintain their momentum and continue to move forward, I feel there should be no danger of them not qualifying for the tournament in South Africa.
Alan Hansen was talking to Ian Hughes