Sport - why on earth do we watch it?!

No matter what the sport is, the order that results happen is of paramount importance to how we feel and react as supporters - for example a goal scored against our favourite football team in the first minute isn’t greeted with as much dismay as one scored in the final minute.

Of course tonight, us Scotland supporters had to endure both of those scenarios!
What a rollercoaster of a game - I hate that cliche, but if every it applied to a game of football, it was this one.

After all the prematch hype and media attention, it was almost a relief when the game got under way - that all changed after the first minute though when the worst possible thing happened and Italy scored.  This played right into their hands and totally wrecked our game plan.

But the fans thankfully didn’t get on the players’ backs and the team rallied round and were actually unlucky not to arrive at halftime back with a level scoreline.  We knew that in all probability if we were to qualify then we had to win the game - but the manager Alex McLeish was in an almost unique position of knowing that even losing wouldn’t endanger his job in the slightest.

Being drawn in a group with 3 of the 4 semi-finalists from the 2006 World Cup meant that we would be doing well to just finish fourth in the group - but with a bit of luck and a following wind then there was a chance we could perhaps pinch third spot off Ukraine, but that was being perhaps a bit too hopeful.

As it’s turned out, we have played absolutely out of our skins and came within a whisker of finishing in the top two - something nobody would have truthfully predicted at the start.

To go back to the notion on the importance of the order of results, if we had started the campaign badly and then ended tonight with a storming finishing run that led to us coming third in the group then we would all be overjoyed tonight.  Instead, due to us having an amazingly good start, but a less than perfect end to the campaign, we will be slightly deflated for a few days.

Hopefully this won’t last and we will all, the fans and players alike, realise that this has been a superb time to be a Scottish football supporter.  The management team, players and all the staff have brought back a sense of pride in our team - and the country as a whole.

A few years ago we weren’t enjoying our international fixtures - there was no looking forward to the next Scotland game.  The players under first Walter Smith and now Alex McLeish have returned the belief that we aren’t actually all that bad a footballing nation.

Of course, an international manager doesn’t have the luxury of being able to go out and buy players willy-nilly, instead he has to simply work with the Scottish players at his disposal.  In the past, we had a run where there were simply no young players coming through so we held on to our established players too long - thankfully those days are gone now and we have a cracking group of young players available for selection.

While this hasn’t been a huge help as far as making it to the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland next summer, it bodes well for the qualifiers aiming for the World Cup in 2010 - and due to our impressive qualifying campaign this time round, it means that we will be seeded higher thereby (hopefully) avoiding having such tough opponents next time.

The draw for the qualifiers takes place on 23rd November, so hopefully that will also be relatively good news for the country and help us get over the rather painful result today.

Bring on South Africa 2010!