GLORIOUS failure? There was nothing glorious about this one.

Gordon Strachan surveyed a scene of devastation in front of him inside the Stozice Stadium last night. Downward glances at his men told the story and mood of this horror show in Ljubljana, limp bodies draped in pink and black strewn across a battlefield that should have been the setting for our greatest moment in two decades. Left-back Andy Robertson sat hunkered down in the middle of the park looking to the heavens, the face of a distraught Leigh Griffiths buried under his tattooed arms. Strachan’s pat to the stomach barely resonated with his talisman who lay sprawled, spent and spared before his manager moved on to his next casualty.

Spared from the torture of a World Cup play-off. Spared from the hope it would bring. Spared from the chance to become immortalised as a modern day Scottish hero just like those who had gone before him. Archie Gemmill, Kenny Dalglish, Jim Baxter, even Colin Hendry and Kevin Gallacher. Names of just some of the players who have risen to the task of hauling this football-daft nation to the biggest of stages with varying degrees of achievement and expectation.

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Expectation was just one thing that killed Scotland in the picturesque setting of Slovenia’s quaint capital city on a humid Sunday night. Not only were Strachan’s group dealing with the anticipation and excitement founded in a belief that this would be Scotland’s time to see its likes again, the feeling of “here we go again” niggled at the back of the mind for too many who had been reluctant cast members in this disaster movie one too many times.

Scotland have become known for many things since the days of Gemmill, Dalglish and Baxter, and in particular cocking things up. While it may have seemed after the last European campaign and the capitulation in Tbilisi that we could not have topped the biggest “what if” qualifying campaign of the modern era, this side, again led by the man who was in the dugout for that 1-0 defeat to Georgia, outdid itself. Not just in Ljubljana, but throughout the campaign.

There are several points, both positive and negative, that will be clutched at over the coming days, weeks and months as another summer dodging midges rather than shifty looking Russian tour guides beckons with all the appeal of a Moscow Airport security strip search. The emergence of Leigh Griffiths as a star of not just here and now but of the future is surely top of the list, as well as the maturity and adaptability of Kieran Tierney, the transition to international football by Stuart Armstrong and the strength in depth of this pool of players.

However, unlike the previous campaign which disintegrated in Georgia on September 4 2015, Scotland and Strachan shot themselves in the foot so many times you’d have thought their match boots were made of Swiss cheese.

The draw early on in this campaign against Lithuania was the first red flag thrown. As was the equally inept performance in the 3-0 loss in Slovakia soon after. Even in the resurgence spawned from that late Chris Martin goal against Slovenia, the lack of concentration and ability to defend a ball into the box, along with Armstrong’s rush of blood to the head, robbed Scotland of a famous victory over England. And that’s just the start of it as history repeated itself here with the former.

On Thursday night against Slovakia Strachan galloped around the technical area as the clock struck 88 minutes, the sight of the ball creeping into the net beyond a peerless Martin Dubravka causing the 60-year-old to turn hysterical. It was a feat of escapism his men could not replicate twice in the same week. But it should never have been a position to be in in the first place.

While Martin Skrtel’s late goal stole the headlines on Thursday, it overshadowed what was a poor showing from West Brom’s Matt Phillips who lasted a full 90 minutes and an awkward midfield in the first half that was eventually fixed as Bannan moved out wide. Strachan would do likewise with Phillips in Ljubljana and it told of a blind spot to certain players which appears to still exist. There was no Callum McGregor who had been called up almost by public demand a week earlier on the back of his two goals for Celtic against Hibs. John McGinn, who got the other two goals in that 2-2 stalemate, kept him company on the bench in Slovenia.

A largely unchanged midfield of Phillips, Barry Bannan and Darren Fletcher was joined by James McArthur who took the place of James Forrest, but they looked a shadow of the energetic unit which dominated Slovakia and took the game to their rivals. In the second half against Slovenia they retreated and allowed their hosts to take the momentum of this game back.

Despite the writing being on the wall from the moment Roman Bezjak’s free header trundled into the net on 52 minutes, only Ikechi Anya was called upon by Strachan at that stage while the rest of the cavalry in the form of Robert Snodgrass and Steven Fletcher were deployed far too late.

As he has done during his Scotland tenure, Strachan showed unshakeable faith in the players he trusts the most, and on this occasion it was the biggest source of frustration. The decision to leave Phillips on the park being one of them.

This draw has taken Strachan from a master of tactical wizardry to a stubborn sod within the space of a few days, such is the fickle nature of a nation that has been tortured and teased for decades. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. His players will eventually pick themselves up from the deck, dust themselves off and the prospect of pulling on a football shirt will no doubt become palatable in the coming days.

For the rest of us though, this failure – glorious or otherwise – will continue to be harder to swallow than most others.