THE Tartan Army have had little to sing about for the last twenty years as Scotland have found themselves out of the international spotlight.

And Pedro Caixinha believes only practice will make perfect as players across the country look to hit the right notes once again and shine on the big stage in Qatar.

While the post-mortem has begun on another failed campaign by Gordon Strachan’s side, Caixinha’s countrymen have another reason to celebrate after Portugal booked their place at the World Cup next summer.

The list of reasons for Scotland’s woes is extensive, with boss Strachan adding genetics to the mix in the aftermath of Sunday’s draw with Slovenia that ended Scotland’s play-off hopes.

And Caixinha reckons more hours must be put in if Scots are to strike a tune that gives the nation reason to be optimistic for the future.

“No, I don’t think [Scottish players are behind technically],” he said. “We have some good technical players, one of the best Scottish ones is (Graham) Dorrans.

“The weather may have something to do with it. In Portugal, we can play on the street even in winter.

“So the ball is with us for more time to develop that skill. We can get on the beach and do it without shoes.

“If you don’t get it on the streets, where can you get it? You need to get it.

“Mourinho said something interesting when he tried to explain tactical periodisation.

“Did you ever see a pianist getting skill from running around a piano? He needs 10,000 hours to become an expert.

“But not from running around it. From touching the keys. Again and again. That is the reality.”

The genetics argument put forward by Strachan at the weekend was roundly ridiculed in many circles as the 60-year-old’s critics lined up to call for his removal from Hampden.

It is not an idea that Caixinha supporters, but the Rangers boss knows all theories must be taken into account as Scotland strive for improvement across the board.

“Twenty years is a lot of time, so something needs to be thought about or redone,” he said.

“You could have a vision, for example, to say we need to be in Qatar. So what we do in this four-year cycle is to start preparing from now.

“It is not up to me to do it. But if they called the coaches involved in local football to get an opinion, I have no problem with that.

“I respect the opinion about the genetics but I cannot agree. Even more so if you compare it with the Spaniards, because the players are the same height.

“In handball, the players are higher. The same in volleyball. And definitely in basketball.

“Ronaldo is a tall player but Messi is not. Both of them are the best players in the world and you have two different types. As I said, I respect that opinion, but I don’t agree with it.”

Caixinha is part of a new generation of Portuguese coaches that have studied the work of Mourinho after his successes across the continent in a glittering managerial career.

The focus in the Scottish game in the past has perhaps been too fixed on physical attributes rather than mental ones.

And Caixinha believes a more rounded approach to player development will always pay dividends in the long run.

“Tactical periodization is more focused on the decisions within the game and an understanding of the game,” he said. “The tactical element is the main focus.

“Of course, physicality is important – it is – but it is not the most important point.

“Is it about football intelligence? Totally. What I know is that we have one methodology which is about understanding the whole game.

“When the players do a simple or drill or exercise, they should be thinking about why they are doing it. What is it that transfers into a match, that will give them options.

“In a match, you are going to face different problems that require different solutions. So you are trying to give the players tools to solve those situations.”

The struggles that Scotland are facing at present are familiar to Caixinha as he reflects on another successful campaign for Fernando Santos’ side.

After finishing third in the World Cup in 1966, Portugal did not reach another finals for two decades as they finished bottom of the group in Mexico.

Caixinha puts the improvements in more recent times down to the work of Carlos Quieroz as the Portuguese adopted a more tactical and psychological approach to work in tandem with their efforts to improve physically at youth level.

The 46-year-old does not profess to have the cure to Scotland’s ills, but he is pleased to see Portugal’s efforts continuing to pay off.

Caixinha said: “There was, not [a lightbulb moment] like that, but I do think professional players just now are very different to professional footballers from 20 years ago.

“In those days, the Portuguese footballers were only playing in Portugal so we were going to play against England, Germany or France, for example, we were afraid. We were not ready.

“It is part of being a human being when you don’t know what is going to happen, the unknown makes you fear what to expect.

“After we had that fantastic group of players, the golden age of Portuguese football, with the Figos and Rui Costas, those players went and played in huge teams.

“People were saying that these people were a bit more professional but when they spoke about football and them and us as players we didn’t know or feel any different.

“So these players brought this mentality to the national team and that spread.

“So when the new methodology and system allowed us to create better players they were also coming in with this new mentality.”

HeraldScotland | Sport

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