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Courage not enough to trouble Dutch

Holland were comfortable winners against Scotland
Scotland had little answer to the slick passing of the Dutch

By Clive Lindsay, BBC Scotland in Amsterdam

Bravery, even Scotland the bravery, is usually not enough at football's top table.

George Burley surprised many with his starting line-up. But, as predicted by most, there was to be no shock result at the Amsterdam ArenA.

It was a big decision to go with a more offensive line-up than the pundits - and probably their Dutch opponents - had expected.

The Scots were, after all, returning to the scene of a 6-0 hammering in 2003 and facing a team presently riding high in third spot in the world rankings.

Scotland's most notable recent away victory, against France in the last European Championship campaign, came courtesy of what was essentially a backs-to-the-wall affair built on solid foundations.

And the Scots had been decimated by injuries that included their talisman and scorer of the wonder goal that secured that famous win in Paris, James McFadden.

But you could see the manager's logic as he chose on the flanks Ross McCormack, who is a striker at club level with Cardiff making his first start for Scotland, and Derby winger Gary Teale.

The Dutch strength is in attack and the absence of defender John Heitinga, plus goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg's much-publicised loss of confidence, suggested there was an Achilles heel waiting to be exploited.

Burley's problem was that his side weren't able to gain enough possession in their opponents' half to test out that theory.

At times, the Dutch were playing only two at the back, with their full-backs making up a four-man midfield and wide men Dirk Kuyt and Arjen Robben forming a formidable four-man attack with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie.

Facing such a strike-force would be a daunting prospect for any defence, never mind one in which Christophe Berra was making his first start for his country following injuries to David Weir, Stephen McManus and Kirk Broadfoot.

Kenny Miller is tackled by Joris Mathijsen
Miller squandered an early chance for Scotland in Amsterdam

The Dutch were the on-field equivalent of their stadium - intricate, expensive, imposing and at times stunningly beautiful.

Scotland, like their Hampden home, were more functional and cut-price - yet they were made to pay for their deficiencies by two opening goals of stunning simplicity.

Nobody will ever know whether the result would have been any different had Burley had his first-choice men fit.

Had Kenny Miller taken that golden chance when through on goal early on, just maybe Scotland could have held out for a Paris-style win.

If Gary Caldwell's "goal" not been disallowed at 2-0, they could have launched an unlikely comeback.

But those are all ifs and maybes.

Scotland must forget Amsterdam. Their real World Cup qualifying campaign starts in earnest on Wednesday against Iceland.

Burley has been under pressure since his side lost their opening tie in Macedonia and, despite a win in Iceland, could only draw at home to Norway.

But he perhaps knew he could afford to take a gamble in a game few expected to turn out any other way.

There will be no such leeway given should they fail to win on Wednesday.

The 15,000 members of the Tartan Army who are making their weary way home from Holland will miss the start in Amsterdam of the World Minimal Music Festival - and minimal will be Scotland's qualification chances should Iceland avoid defeat.

With the Dutch now eight points clear and easing their way to the finals in South Africa, the fight is on for second spot and the chance of a play-off, and it is a battle Burley can't afford to lose.



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see also
Burley fumes at Dutch decisions
28 Mar 09 |  Internationals
Netherlands 3-0 Scotland
28 Mar 09 |  Internationals
Saturday's football photos
28 Mar 09 |  Football
International football as it happened
28 Mar 09 |  Internationals


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