Belfast Telegraph

Scotland paying price for failing physical tests: Strachan

Slovenia 2 Scotland 2

By Gavin McCafferty

Gordon Strachan bemoaned Scotland's genetic make-up after his side lost out on a World Cup play-off on goal difference following a 2-2 draw in Slovenia.

Two set-piece goals from Roman Bezjak overturned a first-half strike from Leigh Griffiths, and Robert Snodgrass could not convert a headed half-chance in the dying seconds after he had levelled with two minutes remaining.

Bezjak's movement allowed him a free header from a Josip Ilicic free-kick and he had yards of space to slot home from 12 yards following a corner from the same player.

Strachan refused to discuss his own future after Scotland missed out on second place in Group F to Slovakia, who beat Malta 3-0. And he declared himself honoured to work with a group of players who he feels are battling against the odds.

The likes of Ikechi Anya, Griffiths, Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Barry Bannan were up against bigger opponents and Strachan claimed that had taken its toll, at the Stozice Stadium in Ljubljana and elsewhere.

"Genetically we are behind," he said. "In the last campaign we were the second smallest, apart from Spain.

"We had to pick a team to combat the height and strength at set-plays. Genetically we have to work at things, maybe we get big women and men together and see what we can do.

"But it is a problem for us because we have to fight harder for every ball and jump higher than anyone else.

"Nobody can tell me their technique, apart from one player, is better than any of ours. But physically we have a problem. We seem to be able to battle it and get through just with sheer determination and skill and work-rate. And that takes a lot out of you."

Scotland were unbeaten in their final six qualifiers, but ultimately could not make up for an indifferent start, with a home draw against Lithuania arguably the most damaging result.

Strachan said: "Over the 90 minutes and the last year, it's been an honour to work with these guys.

"When you see them at the end of the game, I don't think I have seen a group of players that exhausted and disappointed."

Slovenia: Oblak, Struna (Skubic, 46 mins), Mevlja, Cesar, Jokic, Kurtic, Rotman, Ilicic, Repas (Bezjak, 46 mins), Matavz (Vetrih, 89 mins), Verbic. Unused subs: Belec, Viler, Sirok, Sporar, Mlinar, Koprivec.

Scotland: Gordon, Berra, Mulgrew, Robertson, Tierney (S Fletcher, 80 mins), McArthur (Snodgrass, 79 mins), D Fletcher, Bannan, Martin (Anya, 53 mins), Griffiths, Phillips. Unused subs: A McGregor, McGinn, Whittaker, Hanley, Forrest, Cooper, C McGregor, Archer.

Man of the Match: Roman Bezjak

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Johan Eriksson (Sweden)

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