The SFA’s latest slogan is “Nothing Matters More” but they should have finished it off by adding “Than Not Gifting Games To Your Opponents.”
It was night of self-inflicted wounding by Scotland in this friendly at Hampden– as if star-studded Belgium needed any help.
The Scots lost an absolute nightmare of an opener on 28 minutes, with goalkeeper Craig Gordon at fault for a needless throw-out and midfielder John McGinn to blame for dithering in possession. The Belgians stole the ball and it eventually ended up at the feet of striker Romelu Lukaku, who couldn’t miss from a yard out.
It was then all too easy for the World Cup semi-finalists, who added second-half goals from the brilliant Eden Hazard and a double from substitute Michy Batshuayi.
Batshuayi’s second also came gift-wrapped thanks to the day-dreaming Ryan Jack, who got caught on the ball.
It had all started with such promise, too.
There was the proudest of moments for Andy Robertson as the ex-Dundee United man led out the national team as captain for the first time.
The Scots handed a debut to another player United player, John Souttar, in a three-man central defence, which also included Kieran Tierney and Charlie Mulgrew.
There was also another chance for ex-Dundee midfielder Kevin McDonald to impress, while Celtic’s Gordon got the nod in goal ahead of his Rangers rival Allan McGregor.
The Red Devils looked as menacing as expected, with most of their World Cup stars on show.
If you were being mischievous you could suggest there were quite a few Scotland fans as happy to see Hazard, Lukaku, Dries Mertens and Vincent Kompany in action as they were the home team.
Scotland’s men, of course, found themselves placed firmly in the shade by the fairer sex this week after the nation’s women qualified for the World Cup finals.
They wanted to make their own headlines as Stuart Armstrong kicked the game off.
The Tartan Army were on their feet on four minutes when the Scots appeared to have cut open the Belgian backline with a sweet move.
McDonald fired the ball forward to Leigh Griffiths at the edge of the box as the Celtic striker was coming back out. Griffiths got the slightest of touches on the ball to send Callum McGregor clear.
That flick meant the offside flag went up just as McGregor fired his low shot just inches past the post. Had the original pass reached him without intervention from his Parkhead colleague then he would have been onside.
Belgium responded almost immediately and Gordon had to look lively to dive and clutch Mertens’ freekick.
Chelsea maestro Hazard was enjoying lots of possession in front of the home box but it was Mertens who had the visitors’ next decent effort on 17 minutes – a 20-yard strike that just cleared the bar.
On 23 minutes, McGinn almost made a fool out of Belgium number one Thibaut Courtois with a left-foot strike that was only safely held at the second attempt.
Hazard curled a shot wide before the Scots gave away a ridiculous goal to go 1-0 down on 28 minutes.
Gordon rolled the ball out to McGinn outside the box but the daydreaming was caught in possession by Mousa Dembele. He stole the ball, played it left to Thorgan Hazard and he squared it to Lukaku for a tap-in.
It was a self-inflicted shocker, with both Gordon and McGinn at fault. No wonder manager Alex McLeish hurled a few choice words at the duo from the sidelines.
McGinn tried to make amends when room opened up for him on 37 minutes but his shot was easily saved by Courtois.
Belgium should have had a penalty two minutes later when Gordon followed through with a challenge on Timothy Castagne after the player had scooped the ball over him. A corner was given instead and Kompany’s header clipped the bar.
Souttar did well to clear the ball as Lukaku looked set for another tap-in just a couple of minutes then Scotland’s post was struck twice in quick succession as Gordon pushed Eden Hazard’s header on to the upright then Lukaku’s close-range follow-up also struck the woodwork after deflecting off Mulgrew.
Just a minute after the restart it was 2-0.
This goal wasn’t exactly a gift but Gordon didn’t cover himself in too much glory as Hazard – found by a beautiful reverse pass from sub Yannick Carrasco – fired home a left-foot angled strike that seemed to go through his arms.
It was too easy for the Belgians, who had taken off Kompany, Castagne, Mertens and Lukaku at the interval.
Batshuayi, one of the subs, made it three on 52 minutes when he was played in by Hazard and slid a left-foot strike past Gordon from eight yards.
There was a collective sigh of relief around Hampden on 56 minutes when Belgium took off man-of-the-match Hazard and replaced him with Hans Vanaken.
Rangers midfielder Jack, who had replaced Armstrong, was the next Scot to have a shocker. His mind was elsewhere as he got dispossessed by Youri Tielemans in the lead-up to the fourth goal. The ball broke forward to Batshuayi, who slammed it past Gordon on 59 minutes.
On 64 minutes, Scotland should have got one back when McGregor’s cross reached Naismith but he couldn’t convert from point-blank range.
It was now game over, although Ryan Fraser did have a 20-yard shot saved on 84 minutes, sub Johnny Russell tried his luck with a drive that hit the goalie’s legs and Fraser flashed another shot wide in stoppage-time.
The damage was done at the other end, though, and much of it was self-inflicted.
The Belgian fans danced a conga, while the Scots supporters were left to worry about what might happen in Monday’s Nations League opener against Albania.
Scotland: Gordon, Fraser, Robertson, Souttar, Mulgrew (O’Donnell 68), Tierney, McGinn (Shinnie 73), McDonald (Snodgrass 53), Griffiths (Naismith 46), C. McGregor (Russell 68), Armstrong (Jack 53). Subs not used: A. McGregor, Archer, Paterson, Forrest, McTominay.
Belgium: Courtois, Kompany (Vermaelen 46), Vertonghen, Lukaku (Batshuayi 46), E. Hazard (Vanaken 56), Mertens (Carrasco 46), T. Hazard, Tielemans, Dembele (Verstraete 85) Boyata, Castagne (Meunier 46). Subs not used: Sels, Casteels, Alderweireld, Witsel, Dendoncker, Trossard.
Referee: Luca Banti (Italy).