OPTIMISM, hope, fear, trepidation, realism. No matter who Scotland play, where Scotland play, or indeed in what competition Scotland are playing, every match is met with the same miscellany of feelings.
In Dortmund, at the Signal Iduna Park – more alluringly known as the Westfalenstadion – it was no different.
Playing the world champions in their own backyard, we would be absurd to even contemplate going there without hope, without optimism.
For if we were to get anything, we could not do that without self-belief, without the perception of believing that this squad could be capable of taking something off the formidable Germany side of 2014.
However, such a feat would need to be foresaw with realism, and with the realism that we were playing the best international side in the world: we would need to play with fear, with trepidation – on paper we shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as this great-again footballing nation.
But football, as the so-often trotted cliché states, is not a game played on paper. As the team-lines were announced, fans acknowledged the sheer class of the German starting X1: “That’s some bloody midfield,” a kilt-wearing punter quipped next to me, his uncharted levels of optimism perhaps being levelled by a punishing blow of realism.
Our team-lines came and went; there isn’t the cumulative disarray that Craig Levein’s teams provoked, there is a mutual respect throughout Scots for what Gordon Strachan is trying to achieve.
From the off we weren’t going to have a lot of the ball. Possession was always going to be minuscule at best – the final statistics show we only had 31% of the ball over the 90 minutes. The best feeling when supporting Scotland, however, is surprise. We are a team capable of beating arguably better nations. We just don’t do it enough.
When Thomas Müller opened the scoring and the camera cut to the crowd, a German fan celebrated by holding his arm aloft, his finger pointing to the sky constituted celebration. The goal was standard protocol by the German’s immense standards.
Fast forward 48 minutes and the kilt-wearing optimist from pre-match jumped joyfully, much like his equivalent German had done just back in July. He was, however. celebrating winning the World Cup, not celebrating like he had won the World Cup.
The goal, an outstanding one at that, was our fleeting moment of jubilation. It only lasted four minutes, but it was satisfying enough to see we had incensed our top-class opponents into upping a gear. That itself demands commendation.
The German’s standardised celebration was replaced by an overwhelming relief that they weren’t to be embarrassed by the side ranked 27 places below them in the world. Their job was done.
In the end, on paper, we didn’t earn anything. No points, perhaps a lack of damage to our goal difference, but a defeat nonetheless.
Fortunately for us, however, matches aren’t won on paper and we’ll now take on Georgia and Poland next month, once again with our optimism, hope, fear, trepidation and realism.
The loss had us coming away with pride, allied to our pre-match concoction of emotions. It might be enough to haul us towards our first international tournament since France 1998.