THE path to becoming a successful international footballer can be a bumpy one but Scotland Under-19s overcame the handicap of a bobbly, rutted playing surface at the Energy Assets Arena in Livingston yesterday to defeat their Swiss counterparts.
Playing to Mark Wotte's 4-3-3 blueprint, Ricky Sbragia's side like to get the ball down and pass but had to contend with a difficult pitch for such football in addition to a gusting wind and talented opponents.
Having twice fallen behind, the young Scots deserve huge credit for turning this game round, courtesy of equalisers from Gary Oliver of Hearts and Rangers' Fraser Aird, followed by second-half goals from Swansea City's Adam King and Aberdeen's Cammy Smith. Bigger challenges await for this group - Ryan Gauld and John Souttar may return from Under-21 duty for the Under-19 European Championship elite round group against England, Ukraine and Montenegro in England in May - but there was much to admire about the way they stuck to their task after a bad start.
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The normally reliable Darren Petrie, the Dundee United midfielder currently on loan at Brechin City, rolled a soft pass towards Scott McKenna, allowing Gregory Karlen to intercept and nutmeg Ross Stewart in the Scotland goal.
They weren't behind for long, with Oliver scoring from close range after the Fulham centre-half Cameron Burgess met Aird's corner.
Scotland shot themselves in the foot again, some mis-steps from first Burgess then Stephen Hendrie gifting the ball to Diego Zoller, who slotted in for Switzerland.
It took a change of approach from Sbragia at half-time to change the match, as the Scots began pressing high and hitting the channels.
This time it was a Swiss mistake - from Mirsad Hasanovic which resulted in a goal, with Aird prospering when his low left-footed shot was fumbled into the net by the goalkeeper, Novem Baumann.
With the introduction of Celtic's Liam Henderson and Charlie Telfer of Rangers livening things up, the young Scots went for the jugular. King, clearly enjoying life in Wales after his £200,000 move from Hearts, scored a deserved goal when he ran on to Hendrie's pass, then Smith added a fourth with a left-foot finish after neat work from Telfer.
Sbragia, the Scotland coach, said: "We made some suicidal decisions in the first half. Switzerland are a good team and we didn't press them enough and looked nervous. In the second half we changed it but you can't start the way we started and expect to win games, especially when it comes to the European Championship."