Harsh les­son as Strachan high­lights pass­ing con­cern

‘You can’t be of­fen­sive if you can’t pass the ball to each other’


GOR­DON STRACHAN, the Scot­land man­ager, ad­mit­ted his side were “badly off the pace” with their pass­ing in a one-sided 1-0 de­feat by Italy.

Strachan felt the Malta friendly was a harsh les­son both for his play­ers and Scottish football as a whole as Italy out­classed his team.

Graziano Pelle curled home the only goal from 20 yards but Scot­land would have been on the end of a heav­ier de­feat if Emanuele Gi­ac­cherini had shown more com­po­sure when pre­sented with sev­eral clear chances in the first half.

Italy ap­peared to ease off af­ter Pelle’s 57th-minute strike but Scot­land only man­aged one ef­fort at goal – Matt Ritchie’s 78th-minute strike whis­tled wide of the near post from 18 yards.

Strachan said: “You can’t be of­fen­sive if you can’t pass the ball to each other. That is it, what­ever sys­tem you have.

“We were badly off the pace with our pass­ing. It’s still the big­gest se­cret to the game, what­ever any coach tells you about sys­tems. It’s about play­ers be­ing able to beat peo­ple and pass.

“I keep com­ing to this con­ver­sa­tion ev­ery time. It’s some­thing I know and I wish some­body would just lis­ten to me.”

Strachan clearly felt there were wider lessons to take from the game.

The for­mer Celtic man­ager added: “It’s a learn­ing curve, not only for us, and I hope the whole of Scottish football, ev­ery­body at youth level, un­der­stands what you need to be a top player.

“We have talked about why we didn’t pass the ball as well as we can. I counted about eight or nine passes we have given away, when you would think we’d keep it or do bet­ter.

“There might be some fac­tors. Some play­ers have been away, some play­ers rested for a while whereas the Ital­ian lads have been on top of their game right un­til now. That’s the prob­lem for us. A lot of our play­ers are in the Cham­pi­onship, not at the top Euro­pean level.

“And you are also play­ing against a Ju­ven­tus back three, and a goal­keeper who is fan­tas­tic.

“Yes, we would have liked to have done more but it’s partly down to them and partly down to us. We know that. It clears the pic­ture, we un­der­stand ex­actly what you need when you go into the top games. You have got to re­mem­ber a cou­ple of things as well, we prob­a­bly would have been able to choose from five or six other play­ers.

“We’ve got a young squad over here and it’s been a great learn­ing curve for them to watch it never mind play against it. But I’ve got to say thanks to the lads. They could eas­ily have made an ex­cuse

to not be here. The guys that were here did their best. But we have got a clear pic­ture of one or two things, which was great for us to see. When we come up against 3-5-2, we know right now how I’m go­ing to deal with it.”

It was Italy’s first win in five matches and pro­vided a boost ahead of their Euro 2016 cam­paign against Repub­lic of Ire­land, Bel­gium and Swe­den.

Their head coach An­to­nio Conte said: “My play­ers were re­ally de­ter­mined and tried their best on what was a dif­fi­cult pitch to play on. I’m proud of the pas­sion my team showed. We have to build on this vic­tory and clean sheet.”

Pelle added: “We were not at our best but I’m happy that I scored. We should have cre­ated more in the sec­ond half.”

Pic­ture: PA

SUR­ROUNDED: Emanuele Gi­ac­cherini finds him­self the cen­tre of at­ten­tion in Malta last night as the Scots toiled to con­tain the im­pres­sive Ital­ians.

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