Scotland manager Alex McLeish admits he faces a major challenge getting his inexperienced squad up to speed.
A starting line-up with a total of 86 caps between them suffered one of Scotland’s worst results as they fell to a 3-0 Euro 2020 qualifying defeat in Kazakhstan.
Scotland were missing six of the players who started both wins over Albania and Israel in November, which guaranteed them a play-off spot for the European Championship.
That safety net is already looking crucial for Scotland’s prospects of reaching a tournament they are co-hosting, following the shock loss against a nation ranked 117th in the world.
Defeat in San Marino on Sunday is unthinkable – they are officially the worst national team in the world – while Callum Paterson, Ryan Fraser and Andy Robertson will return after missing Thursday’s loss.
But with the likes of Allan McGregor, Matt Ritchie, Darren Fletcher and Robert Snodgrass drifting away from the international scene for a variety of reasons and the likes of Steven Fletcher, Steven Naismith and Leigh Griffiths unavailable, many of McLeish’s players are having to find their feet on the world stage at the same time.
“There’s a lot of inexperience in the squad,” he said. “We have introduced a few new names over the last year or so. It’s a process which can take time, but I know we don’t have any time.
“I want to get these lads to the level we demand in the international scene, but it’s not easy for players to come from no experience straight into the international scene.”
McLeish admitted his side had defended poorly at the Astana Arena and were unable to rediscover their rhythm after losing two goals in four minutes early on.
And the performance on the artificial surface was so bad that Scotland could not even do the basics which are usually taken for granted.
McLeish said: “I think we played a little bit slow at times. We did emphasise the need to play fast, to take as few touches as possible. We ran with the ball too much and never passed it swiftly enough.
“Kazakhstan were first to second balls. We never did what has probably been a famous trait for British teams, which is getting second balls.”