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Scotland’s national team, a quality assessment

May 26, 2012, 11:55 AM EDT

Scotland

What kind of obstacle will Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team encounter tonight in Jacksonville?

Not a great one, in all honesty.

Scotland has slipped gradually since its heyday in the 1970s, when striker Kenny Dalglish guided a well-regarded selection. The Scots are now adjudged as the 48th best team in the world and 27th best in Europe, according to the highly dubious (still being honest here) FIFA Rankings. For whatever that’s worth to you.

The Scots failed to qualify for the last three European Championships (2004, 2008 and 2012). They are in the United States today rather than in Europe prepping happily alongside other Euro 2012 qualifiers, because they failed to punch a ticket into the Poland and Ukraine tournament.

Scotland last qualified for a World Cup in 1998. (I happened to be at their last World Cup  match, a 3-0 loss to Morocco in St. Etienne. It was the only match I attended as a fan. Sitting among the Scottish supporters that day, I discovered how extraordinarily many ways a certain naughty work could be creatively deployed. Good times!)

So, Scotland has failed to punch its way into the last six major tournaments.

Now consider that injury, illness and personal reasons have left Scotland without perhaps 11-12 players who would ordinarily be selected.

On a radio show this morning I called Scotland a “European middleweight.” During the break, I was told that I was probably being generous. For whatever that’s worth to you.

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