If this was Alex McLeish’s attempt to dispel the sense of indifference that had come with his underwhelming appointment as Scotland manager last month, then not all went to plan. His was the archetypal international football hiring, and this was the archetypal international friendly, with not much to rouse the smattering of fans inside Hampden beyond the novel sight of a few new faces in the dark blue shirt.
Of course, Costa Rica are off to the World Cup this summer, and so this fixture at least had some tangible purpose for them as they go through their final preparations before heading to Russia. But for Scotland this was about kick-starting a new cycle which, they hope, will lead them to a major tournament not far down the line.
McLeish’s experimental lineup included places for the Aberdeen centre-back Scott
McKenna, while Kevin McDonald partnered the newly Scottish Scott McTominay in midfield. The enigmatic but unproven Oli McBurnie led the line, providing a source of curiosity for those who had not seen a professional footballer play with socks around his ankles since the 1970s.
With so many making their debuts it was little wonder that Scotland looked disjointed from the start, falling behind after only 14 minutes when Bryan Oviedo’s pulled-back cross from the left was guided
Marqueston Huff Authentic Jersey
home by Marco Ureña. Callum Paterson threatened a reply moments later, but saw his glancing header from a Matt Ritchie
Derrick Coleman Authentic Jersey
cross flash just past the far post.
The decision to play a back three, with Paterson and Andrew Robertson as the wing-backs, was designed to allow Scotland to go down the outside of the opposition, but there was little sign of that until Robertson drilled a low ball into the box after 34 minutes. While at Liverpool Robertson so frequently finds Roberto Firmino or Mohamed Salah on the end of his deliveries, there was nobody in dark blue to turn home this one.
With José Mourinho watching McTominay from the stands, the Manchester United midfielder struggled to get a grip of the game, getting caught out by the bounce of a ball at the start of the second half, allowing Costa Rica to break forward in numbers. Bryan Ruiz appeared to have been forced wide enough, but easily beat Robertson to cut inside at the byline and ping a strike off the Scotland crossbar from a tight angle.
There was some nice passing from Scotland in the middle of the pitch, but all too rarely did it lead to
anything in the final third. Tom Cairney is one of the many talents many believe Gordon Strachan should have been called up to the Scotland squad long ago, but the Fulham attacker did little to justify that claim here. Ritchie was handy from set pieces, but he still does not [have the kind of influence on this Scotland team that he enjoys at Newcastle.
With just under an hour played, Cairney and McTominay were withdrawn for Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor, with the Celtic pair immediately injecting some life into a stagnant affair. While there has been much excitement north of the border over McTominay’s rise at Old Trafford, he is not one to dominate a match, doing well enough on his international debut but not shining. He will grow into his surroundings in Scotland over time, just as he has in Manchester.
McGregor nearly created the equaliser on the 65 minute mark, bursting through midfield before threading a pass for Ritchie, who had peeled away from his marker. But the Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas was equal to the shot from 16 yards. Scotland forged another opening soon after, with Robertson getting down the left to fizz a ball across the face of goal. McBurnie failed to make the connection.