Scotland’s performance against Portugal was an improvement from the 2-1 loss to Israel in Haifa – if it wasn’t we’d have real problems.
It was a 3-1 loss, but Alex McLeish’s team had a couple of half chances before the game really got away from them.
To lose the opener before half-time puts them on the back foot, and the mistakes which led to Portugal’s second and third were concerning.
Similar to the 4-0 loss to Belgium, the Dark Blues weren’t under the cosh the whole game, instead making silly mistakes to give away goals.
The lack of experience at the back is a problem. Giving away cheap goals will always make it hard to win.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement for the really important games – Albania away and Israel at home in the Uefa Nations League.
However, Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna looked good and the four at the back certainly made Scotland look more compact – most of the time.
Despite the goal he set up being a consolation, Gary Mackay-Steven will also be pleased his performances in a red shirt this season have been rewarded with a second cap.
The formation at the end of the day is the manager’s call as he sees the players in training.
But when the players reflect on the formation you can’t just ignore it. He has to have buy-in from the players and it was good to see McLeish react.
There’s nothing wrong with a back four if it works better. If the personnel don’t suit three centre-backs, then you either get them comfortable playing it or move to a four.
I’d like the team to be able to play both ways depending on the opposition and shape.
Portugal aside, who are one of the best teams in Europe and one the Scots will always be underdogs against, let’s not forget the result in the game which really mattered. The game against Israel was typical Scotland – they get you all excited by beating Albania and then let you down.
I expected the Albania performance to be worse than it was and the Israel clash to be better.
It was worrying how the team went from such a positive game where just about everything looked really good defensively, bar a few question marks because of players like Kieran Tierney, normally a left-back, playing out of position at centre-back.
Against Albania most things were positive and in attack they were scoring goals.
However, the Israelis ripped us apart at times. They created seven or eight really good opportunities and we were fortunate to come away with just a 2-1 loss.
Against opposition of Israel’s level, with the players Scotland have, it isn’t good enough.
Those are the words skipper Andy Robertson and Steven Naismith used.
It obviously hurt the players and manager to play in the way the Dark Blues did, and it isn’t nice to be booed off by your fans and be pilloried in the media back home, but McLeish reckons the Portugal game will have gone some way to lifting a bit of the doom and gloom – hopefully he’s right.
There are still two games to turn it round in the Nations League against teams we should be capable of turning it round against.
Naismith has started the season really well with Hearts, Robertson is playing week in, week out at the highest level with Liverpool, while John McGinn, of Aston Villa, and Kevin McDonald, of Fulham, are also good enough to play in England’s top divisions.
These are just the players who were in the squad this time, with Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser also to come back in and, maybe, Leigh Griffiths.
If you look at the talent of the other Scottish Premiership players as well, there’s no question we are the strongest side in our pool and should win it.
It’s possible the performance in Haifa was a one-off, but Scotland have to turn up in the next Nations League game – Albania away.
If not, we’ve chucked a great chance away.