Desmond Kane

Scotland humping worse than Engelbert’s

Scotland fared worse than Engelbert on Saturday

The last summery Saturday of May seemed to be an evening ripe for ritual humiliation. The ongoing English crooner Engelbert Humperdinck finished second from last in the Eurovision song contest, the previously undefeated Romanian-Canadian Lucian Bute was obliterated by Carl Froch in their world super-middleweight boxing bout in Nottingham and Scotland were abused 5-1 by the USA in Jacksonville, Florida in a truly forgettable game of soccerball.

Out of the three humpings, it is difficult to argue that Scotland's pumping was the most "embarrassing" as the Scotland striker Kenny Miller suggested afterwards. At least Englebert and Bute were in contests that turned out to be hopeless causes. Scotland's humiliating collapse was self-inflicted from the moment they squandered possession to fall behind in the third minute to Landon Donavan's first of three until Jermaine Jones found a fifth goal on 70 minutes.

Scotland have suffered a few serious beatings over the past 10 years. They were stuffed 5-0 by France in a friendly a decade ago before suffering a 6-0 clubbing by the Netherlands in the second leg of a play-off for Euro 2004 after somehow winning the first leg 1-0 in Glasgow. Those defeats could be argued away coming against sides who were comfortably inside the world's top 10.

There can be few excuses for the capitulation against a US side posted at 29th in the standings despite coming at the traditional end of the European season. The Celtic midfielder Scott Brown seemed to rampage around the pitch with some relish. If he can call on the energy levels required having appeared 34 times for club and country, what excuses do the rest have? None.

Gary Caldwell and Andy Webster looked like they had been introduced to each other for the first time in the dressing room. Barry Bannan looked like a figure who has been on the periphery of an Aston Villa squad that finished one place above the relegation slots in the Premier League. Apart from Brown and Allan McGregor in goal, there were so many disappointments for Scotland all over the park.

The Scotland assistant manager Peter Houston seemed to unwittingly curse the whole damned excursion a week ago when he opined that the squad were in Florida to work. If Scotland were working on Saturday night, heaven help us when they have time off.

It was an inept performance lacking in any sort of tactical base, and poses serious question marks over the team's ability to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals. This is a country that has not reached a major finals since the 1998 World Cup. The malady lingers on.

If the Scottish Football Association wanted to reward the national team for failing to qualify for the Euro 2012 finals, they should have paid for a week-long knees-up to Florida without clamping a game on at the end of it.

Scotland's failure to finish second behind Spain from a modest qualifying section in which the now qualified Czech Republic were their only true opponent for a play-off place remains a true blight on a landscape that has been devoid of tangible success for some time.

Scotland played like they were on a jolly or a stag-do with the game a mere distraction after a week of golf. What were they doing during the week to look in such a shambolic state come showtime on Saturday night? Let not get ready to rumble.

The much lamented German Berti Vogts used to shuffle into press conferences sporting a hangdog look after his latest friendly defeat while he was running Scotland. Some of the treatment he received in media conferences bordered on the xenophobic. Levein, like Wattie Smith before him, is an articulate sort of figure and gets an easier ride of things because he is a native.

If Vogts had presided over Saturday's debacle, he would have been urged to shack up with the US coach Jurgen Klinsmann, his striker at Euro 96, rather than board a plane back.

There is a real need for Levein to prove he is up to the task of motivating his players. Can he manage at the required level? It does not say much for his managerial abilities or some of his players if this is how they respond to the coach's instructions. Did Scotland get their tactics wrong? The 6-4-0 formation Levein trotted out in losing 1-0 in the Czech Republic will live long in infamy, but Scotland suddenly seem to have lost recognition of what works best for them with the group of players at their disposal. The most worrying aspect of Saturday was that there was little for Levein to console himself with.

Some Rangers fans had called for their club's players to boycott the national team in protest at the way their club has been treated by the SFA. It would have made little difference on Saturday with McGregor and Whittaker party to an episode of Braveheart without the bravery or heart.

There is a reason why Scotland have been left outside looking in at this summer's European Championship finals. It is the same reason that threatens to prevent them from qualifying for the World Cup finals. They do not look properly attuned, or quizzical enough during pertinent moments. They were also flogged by the athleticism of the US side.

At the age of 76, Englebert had more life in him than Scotland.