I was very impressed by Scotland’s performance against Holland on Wednesday evening.
But I can’t say the same about the referee, Vitor Ferreira.
The Portuguese whistler fell below the standard that is required at international level.
He awarded the Dutch what proved to be a crucial free-kick in the closing stages, penalising Jack Hendry for a “challenge” on Memphis Depay.
Let’s be honest, it was never a free-kick in a month of Sundays – and that’s not me commenting through tartan specs.
Steve Clarke wasn’t wrong when he described the decision as “embarrassing”.
The Portuguese official appeared to give Depay everything going on the night.
Every time a Scotland player even glanced in the Dutchman’s direction, Ferreira looked as though he couldn’t wait to blow his whistle.
But his wasn’t the worst refereeing performance around Europe as countries ramped up their preparations for Euro 2020 kicking-off.
No, that award went to another Portuguese, Luis Godinho, who was in charge of France’s friendly against Wales in Nice.
He gave the French a penalty-kick in the first half when he adjudged Liverpool’s Neco Williams was guilty of deliberate handball. I could understand that decision.
But then, inexplicably, he chose to also give Williams a straight red card. That left me stunned.
There is no way to find any justification for Godinho’s decision. The referee ruined the game, not just for Wales but also for the World Champions.
France would have been looking for a stiffer test ahead of their tough Group F schedule against Germany, Portugal and Hungary, and would have hoped to have played against 11 men for 90 minutes.
To make matters worse, Godinho also had the benefit of VAR in that game.
Honestly, at times, you just couldn’t make it up.
Clearly, given the performances from both Portuguese whistlers, I can only come to the conclusion that there aren’t enough good referees around to cover all of the friendlies that took place during the week.
I just hope that UEFA are confident they will have better referees handling the games at the Euros.
It’s better to get mistakes out of the way, and learn from them, when there isn’t anything at stake.
However, the officiating needs to be spot on as soon as the tournament kicks off.
We want to be talking about football for the next month, not about refereeing incompetence.
Given how Steve Clarke’s players played in midweek, they will be going into today’s friendly against Luxembourg in a positive frame of mind.
The team Steve started with in the Estadio Algarve was not what we would expect to see for the opening game against Czech Republic, but changes were forced on him due to the Covid situation with John Fleck.
That was far from ideal, but I’m sure it is all under control and there will be no worries for the big kick-off.
Steve gave David Turnbull and Billy Gilmour their debuts, and that was encouraging. Kevin Nisbet also came off the bench to score with a lovely finish to an excellent move.
Andy Robertson set up the Hibs striker with a delicious delivery into the box, and the Hibs man ate it up with a clinical execution.
Robertson’s 80-yard run to deliver the cross sets a standard. He is captain of his country for a reason, and he leads by example on and off the park.
Kieran Tierney was also different class. Operating as a left centre-back in a three, the Arsenal man also joined in the attack on plenty of occasions.
He and Andy have a brilliant understanding, and as long as one sits when the other bombs forward, we will be fine.
But it’s also food for thought for Steve, and that’s why we might need another holding midfielder in the team to accommodate that situation.
All this tactical stuff will be on Steve’s mind, but he’ll get it right.
I also have to say that there appears to be a brilliant atmosphere within the squad, and the training camp in La Finca looks to have been ideal.
The players seem very settled, and comfortable in each other’s company. They are giving off a very relaxed vibe, and I like that.
I’m feeling quietly optimistic for what lies ahead, and I think the whole nation is in a similar frame of mind.
But I’m not going to get carried away. Let’s take it one step at a time, and see where we are placed after tonight’s match.
However, we have waited 23 years for what is coming up.
The way I’ve been feeling in the past week has told me just how much I’ve missed Scotland being involved in a major tournament.
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