Scotland U21s saw their hopes of reaching Euro 2023 dealt a major blow as a classy Belgium side ran out 2-0 winners.
Scot Gemmill’s kids paid the price for a clumsy Josh Doig foul in the box, allowing Lois Openda to slot home a clinical spot-kick.
Nicolas Raskin then made the game safe with a close-range drive.
Courier Sport was at Tannadice to assess the action.
With the nation on a high following one of Scotland’s finest showings in a generation, the question was: could the U21 side intensify the feel-good factor?
The pre-match rendition of ‘Yes Sir, I can Boogie’ may have lacked the volume and vibrancy of the one at Hampden 24 hours prior, but positivity was palpable at Tannadice.
The crowd of 2,304 was more than 1,000 up on the attendance for last Friday night’s win over Kazakhstan.
Perhaps inspired by the senior side’s exploits, Scotland pressed hard — Gemmill’s cries of ‘higher, higher’ filled the Dundee air — and started on the front-foot.
A Glenn Middleton drive whistled narrowly past the the post; Doig snapped into tackles; Lewis Fiorini had a couple of delightful touches.
The costly stumble
Predictably, the Belgians eventually found their stride.
PSV Eindhoven’s Yorbe Vertessen fired over the bar after being sent scampering though on goal by Openda.
Openda — unlucky not to earn senior call-up following a rich vein of form on loan at Vitesse — then stung the palms of Cieran Slicker.
Scotland were proving gutsy and resolute against a side with a 100 per cent record in the section.
Until Doig endured a costly stumble, that is.
A Belgium attack culminated in the Hibs defender barrelling into the back of Vertessen inside the box. Stone-wall penalty.
Middleton’s hard miles
Scotland have some talented technical footballers — a stated aim of the Scottish FA Performance School programme — but Belgium were a cut above.
Defending a 1-0 lead, they retained possession with ease.
Juventus’ Koni de Winter regularly strolled out of defence, Amadou Onana dominated central midfield and Raskin of Standard Liege appears a super prospect.
Meanwhile, on the occasions Scotland did regain possession, a hopeful pass towards an isolated Middleton was too often deployed.
His was a thankless task.
It was no surprise to see the on-loan St Johnstone man replaced by Dapo Mebude on the hour.
The lay of the land?
Scotland’s best opportunity to restore parity was served up on a silver platter when Ewoud Pletinckx’s short back-pass allowed Lewis Fiorini to steal in.
However, visiting goalkeeper Senne Lammens made a fine block.
Scotland paid the price for that profligacy when Raskin fired into the roof of the net, converting a super Hugo Siquet delivery.
The Belgian victory, allied with Denmark’s 2-1 win in Turkey, sees Scotland slip five points adrift of the top two in Euro 2023 qualification Group I.
Even with the new-found positivity that courses through Scottish veins, progress looks a tall order.