Scotland’s defeat to Spain was hardly a shock. Spain are unbeaten at home in competitive matches since June 2003, and it’s six years since they failed to win a qualifier on home soil.
The result, combined with the Czech Republic winning in Lithuania, confirmed Scotland will be absent from a major tournament once again.
In a group containing the best national team in the world, top spot was never going to be in doubt. But while neither Scotland nor Czech Republic performed particularly convincingly overall, the Scots will feel aggrieved not to have taken the play-off place ahead of Czech Republic, and will recall a series of incidents during the game between the sides on September 3 as the moment when their qualification became near impossible.
Leading 2-1 in the final minute, a hugely controversial penalty was given against Scotland following a clear dive in the area by Jan Rezek. A sense of Scottish injustice was then fuelled by the failure of referee Kevin Blom to award Scotland a penalty of their own, deep into added on time for an alleged foul on Christophe Berra.
It could have been a controversial decision in itself had a penalty been given, with minimal contact. But there was definitely some contact and it was much clearer a penalty decision than that handed to the Czechs. As a final insult to Scottish injury, Berra was cautioned for diving.
It is often margins such as this which make or break an entire qualifying campaign, as the Republic of Ireland found out in their play-off against France when they conceded a goal infamously assisted by the hand of Thierry Henry which sent France to the World Cup.
Calls for the introduction of video replays have become louder as each year goes by. Two more years have passed since the incident involving Ireland.
How much longer do we have to wait before football catches up with the likes of tennis and rugby in making use of technology to ensure accuracy of game or season changing decisions?