Scotland boss Gordon Strachan blamed genetics for his side’s failure to reach next year’s World Cup after Sunday's 2-2 draw in Slovenia ended their hopes of gatecrashing the tournament’s play-offs.
Strachan’s side led at the break in Ljubljana courtesy of a Leigh Griffiths strike only for Slovenia substitute Roman Bezjak’s double to turn the tide in favour of the hosts, while a late Robert Snodgrass effort ultimately proved meaningless.
Their draw, coupled with Slovakia’s 3-0 win over whipping boys Malta, meant Scotland finished third in Group F as their hopes of qualifying for a first major tournament since 1998 evaporated.
“Genetically, we’re behind,” said Strachan. “In the last campaign, we were the second smallest apart from Spain. So that means we had to pick a team tonight to try to combat their height and strength. Genetically we need to look at things.
“We just can’t play the biggest people in Scotland. Technically, we’re fine but our guys have got to work harder on the ball than say bigger lads at 6ft 2in or 6ft 3in.”
Strachan remained coy on his future, although received support from Celtic striker Griffiths, who expressed hope that the former Coventry, Southampton and Middlesbrough manager would lead Scotland’s European Championship qualification campaign.
“I hope he does,” said Griffiths. “I don’t think there’s any man better for the job. You’ve seen in the last few performances, we are a team pulling in the right direction. We’re still unbeaten in 2017. I’d be delighted if he stays on.”
Scotland’s draw guaranteed Northern Ireland a place in the play-offs as one of the eight best runners-up prior to their 1-0 defeat to Norway in Oslo last night.
There was, however, the need to maintain the highest possible ranking in the world standings in the hope of being one of the four seeded teams for the play-off draw on 17 October. Governing body Fifa will announce their updated standings on 16 October.
Norway’s winner came in the 71st minute when West Brom’s Chris Brunt put through his own net.