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Thursday, 20 November 2008
Scotland boss George Burley was able to name captain Barry Ferguson in a brave 4-4-2 formation. Allan McGregor came in between the sticks for the injured Craig Gordon, Paul Hartley started with Manchester United's Darren Fletcher out and Chris Iwelumo made his first start up front despite his Norway horror show.
New Argentina boss Diego Maradona looked like he was about to burst with pride before kick-off. He was missing the likes of Lionel Messi, 'Kun' Aguero and Juan Román Riquelme, but was, of course, still able to put together an impressive line-up.
After the anthems had been sung, there was a minute of silence for late Boca Juniors president Pedro Pompilio and also former Scotland coach Ian McColl.
It was a blustery night at Hampden Park, but Argentina were keen to get the ball down and play, keeping early possession.
Left winger Kris Commons provided an early threat for the hosts, though, cutting inside and providing a decent cross that just evaded Chris Iwelumo.
Irked, the South American side roared straight up the other end and, after some cutting play, Javier Mascherano blasted a swerving volley at Allan McGregor that the 'keeper was only to keen to beat away.
Inside 8 minutes, though, the Albicelestes would prove too hot to handle. A long kick-out ended up with Carlos Tevez on the right, who worked his way into the box deftly. He passed off to Jonas Gutierrez, who in turn played in the onrushing Maxi Rodriguez and the Atleti man was able to pick his spot and open the scoring.
Thus followed extended periods of possession for Maradona's slick side, who were almost in again when McGregor was forced to save with his two feet from Napoli man Ezequiel Lavezzi's close-range effort.
However, Scotland were able to show a bit of heart and up the pace midway through the half, clearly annoyed by their own fans' jeering. James McFadden had their first real chance, forcing Martin Demichelis to block his effort bravely.
The intensity levels had been raised and Gutierrez's cynical foul on Alan Hutton gifted Scotland a free-kick in a dangerous area. Subsequently, Commons' inswinging delivery found Kirk Broadfoot, who had escaped his marker, but the Rangers full-back couldn't direct his header.
The visitors were rattled and Juan Pablo Carrizo and Demichelis were involved in a dreadful mix-up, from which McFadden very nearly profited. Towards the end of the first half, then, the Scots certainly had played their way back into the match after a shaky start.
One might have expected a slew of changes at the interval, but perhaps the coaches felt like the game had more life in it and only Lee Miller appeared in the place of Iwelumo.
The second half picked up at a very good pace and Lavezzi had a chance early on, firing wide after good work from Rodriguez.
Commons, impressive all night long, was keen to drive at defenders and certainly caused problems. Everything was going though him and the Derby man certainly didn't look out of place against the superstars as Scotland started to dominate the second half.
However, they weren't creating clear-cut chances and Argentina were always going to be dangerous. Indeed, Lavezzi might have been in when he went racing through, but the referee chose not to play what would have been a great advantage and killed the move.
The Scots came close from a corner with 20 minutes remaining. Argentina's zonal marking looked suspect and substitute Lee Miller was afforded too much space, heading just over.
The Albicelestes, perhaps sensing that they weren't really getting anywhere, started to kill the game with their impressive passing for the last 15 minutes.
At times their gear change could be frightening, though, and more great play in tight areas almost let sub German Denis in, but the Scottish defence was able to stifle him.
At the other end, the brilliant Commons played a lovely reverse pass to sub David Clarkson, but his shot was blocked wide and time would run out on Burley's men.
Both coaches saw lots of good things during a full-blooded, up-tempo game that belied its friendly status. However, both sides clearly still have a long way to go before they can turn a corner and rescue their ailing World Cup qualifying bids.
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