Scotland 0 - Australia 2

It didnīt cost Scotland World Cup or European Champion-ship qualifying points and, in the great scheme of things, it will not be regarded throughout the world of football as a matter of any great significance. But Scotlandīs 2-0 defeat by Australia at Hampden last night is a source of great embarrassment and concern to all who regard this game as an integral part of our culture.

Letīs put it this way. Who could have conceived, as recently as 20 years ago, that a Scottish international team could have been beaten on their own patch by a side from the Antipodes? Talk about going Down Under? The grandest forklift truck in the world would toil to lift them after this huge embarrassment.

The result and the ineptitude of the performers came just hours after the Scottish national side had been elevated to 20th place in the FIFA rankings, which just goes to show that, as Disraeli once said, there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics.

Scotland were woeful last night, comprehensively beaten by a first-half goal by Brett Emerton and a second-half strike by David Zdrilic. They seemed to lack any will or combative spirit; they had turned up, but without any great conviction, and that has to be a cause of great concern to the manager, Craig Brown.

The Scots were outplayed in every area of the pitch. In defence they were sluggish, in the midfield they were second best to a fluid Australian system, and in attack they produced the level of heat that, normally, babies bathe in. In short, there was no cohesion whatsoever to their play. They were a shambles, and conceded our third successive defeat at the national stadium.

Of course, all sorts of arguments can be used to analyse this dire performance. We were short of key men - yet the Aussies were missing Craig Moore, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell. Ultimately, there is no get-out clause, because Scotland have been embarrassed big time, and claims that our players are being overworked just do not carry any significant weight.

Australia were the better team and by a distance. Maybe our over-paid and under-performed footballers will now recognise they do not hold any franchise on supremacy against teams which used to be regarded as Third World nonentities.

To be fair to Brown, he faced up to the issue and said: "If we got to take anything at all positive from this game, then it must be the certainty that there can be no complacency any longer. "We have a vital World Cup qualifying tie coming up next March against Belgium at Hampden and we must pull together and improve. "I had told the players before the game that they would be facing a very powerful side.

"Football changes every year. Some sides decline and others make progress, and we should have been well aware of the advances the Australians have made over the years since we beat them in a World Cup qualifier in 1985. "They have a great athletic tradition which is now being witnessed in their football team. Their players are at major clubs throughout Europe. "But I have to emphasise this is no excuse for our performance. We need a quick and dramatic improvement if we are to beat Belgium in our next World Cup qualifying tie. I am unhappy with the performance and I hope the players are also. When they examine their contributions, they should be less than pleased."

The Scots were behind as early as the 11th minute, the first indication of the frailties in a defence composed of Tom Boyd, Christian Dailly and Brian OīNeil.

The Feyenoord player, the excellent Brett Emerton, made a decisive run from the right, his strength holding off defenders, and he slid his shot under Jonathan Gould.

Given the obvious early superiority of the Australians, this early advantage came as no surprise.

They might well have increased their lead a couple of minutes later when Paul Agostino sent a header just over the crossbar from a corner kick and then, 22 minutes into the game, Stan Lazaridis powered a left-foot free-kick against the crossbar from 25 yards with Gould off his line and beaten. Sadly, there was not a lot Scotland could do to stem the flow of Australiaīs aggression. They were spectators rather than competitors in this contest. The angst got to Brown, who was warned for what he considered to be touchline tantrums by the French referee, Pascal Garibian, in the 28th minute.

His urgings did not enhance the cause. Some eight minutes before the interval, Agostino cut in from the left and forced Gould into a difficult save.

All the Scots had to show for their participation so far was an effort by Don Hutchison which was deflected over the crossbar by a defender. Brown, looking for an escape route, sent on Matt Elliott and Neil McCann at the start of the second half for Colin Cameron and David Weir, but no matter how he shuffled the pack the aces of his planning would not fall. Even the introduction of the vastly experienced Colin Hendry, who replaced Brian OīNeil with some 30 minutes remaining, could not change the pattern. Hutchison did find himself with another half-chance in the 61st minute when he was put through on goal by the largely ineffectual Barry Ferguson. His volley was saved by the Australian keeper, Mark Schwarzer. Again, now clutching at straws, Brown replaced Craig Burley with Paul Dickov. But to no avail as the Aussies increased their lead in the 65th minute. Kevin Muscat sent over a cross from the right and Zdrilicīs header beat Gould.

There was no way back for the Scots and, to be fair, they got precisely what they deserved from this match.

If anything is to be learned from it, it is that their position at the top of their World Cup qualifying group is fraught with uncertainty Maybe a collection of their players had been ordered by their clubs to play at half-pace, but, even so, they showed themselves to be lacking in the essential qualities required to compete at a decent level. You wouldnīt wish to see the lot that represented Scotland last night going in against the better nations of the world in Japan and Korea in 2002. Were that to be the case, embarrassment would quickly transform itself into humiliation.

As Brown said: "It wasnīt good enough and I am not happy with it. The players have been informed of this. "We canīt make excuses, because we have to recognise that, over all, Australia were the better team."

written by Alan Davidson