Another World Cup campaign has come to an end and another finals will take place without Scotland gracing it.
The disappointment never gets easier, but you do just come to expect it now.
When we spoke to Kenny Miller after announcing his international retirement he told us that his main regret “is the fact that we never made a major finals. It’s one thing we (Scotland players) want to do is make a Euros or a World Cup. It’s not a regret, because we always gave our all, but it’s one thing you’re going to look back on that you’re going to miss out on”.
A whole generation of national team players has missed out on that feeling but there are finally signs that things could be looking up for us at an international level.
The ‘Road to Rio’ campaign had highs and it had lows, with the best part of it all being the fact that we finally got rid of Craig Levein as the man at the helm.
The team has performed well under Gordon Strachan, playing some nice football and actually scoring some goals.
The stirring performance against England and the qualifying wins against Croatia (twice) and Macedonia show that there is at least some hope for the future, starting with the next Euros qualifying campaign.
Finishing fourth in the group, along with Scotland’s rise to 35th in the farcical FIFA World Rankings (we’re almost on page one of the listing on the website!) should help a little bit when it comes to opponents, but realistically there is so little to choose between many teams in Europe that we’ll still be stuck in that vicious circle of having at least two really quality teams in our group.
A number of people have posed the “what if” question of course. “What if Strachan had been appointed sooner?”. Well we’ll never know but it took those horrendous dropped points at the start of the campaign to get us where we are now.
What it all means is that we’re left looking for teams to support at next year’s World Cup once again.
England have scraped in, so we always have their three group opponents, but looking at who else is going to be in Brazil, there’s not a lot of plucky underdogs for us this time around.
There’s the African qualifiers, and the story that I think many of us are still hoping will play out is the first qualification of Ethiopia. They have a tough challenge ahead of overcoming a 2-1 deficit and winning in Nigeria, but it would be a fantastic story if they can get through. As it would be for Burkina Faso, who currently lead Algeria 3-2 after their first leg.
And it’s not the same for me if Cameroon aren’t there. There’s still a chance, with the Indomitable Lions tied 0-0 with Tunisia after their first leg.
New Zealand is full of Scots, so we’ll be cheering them on in their two legged playoff with Mexico. Although I do like Mexican girls, so I’m a little torn on that one.
And there’s still the great possibility that Uruguay, and one of the most unlikeable men in world football, Luis Suarez, could miss out if they can’t get past Jordan in their playoff. Jordan themselves qualified for that playoff after an epic 9-8 penalty win over Uzbekistan.
In the four European playoff matches, it would also be some story if Iceland can make it past Croatia and qualify for the first time. It’s been a stunning turnaround of fortunes for the small island nation ranked 131st by FIFA just April last year, although they didn’t have the most taxing of groups.
Maybe Scotland will be that lucky one day. But most of all, maybe we’ll just qualify to be seen on the world stage next time and be done with it.
The signs are there and I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about the national team than I did a year ago. So forget the what ifs, and let’s starting thinking of what could be.