This longing to see progress for the manager Gordon Strachan and his side, this desperation to buy into a sense of rebirth, is being tested by pesky defeats. Strachan has been around the block long enough to know that it's harder to sell the idea of momentum and improvement after losing two games and conceding five goals.
Belgium turned up at Hampden and delivered an understated, effortless confirmation of superiority. With their big hitters, their transfer fees, their hairstyles, and their 7000 bubbling fans, it was a night which seemed to be all about them. At full-time they celebrated wildly, a country which knows it is heading to the 2014 World Cup and doesn't need to wait for the fact to be confirmed.
In truth they were weren't especially electrifying here, and will have to go up a gear or two against better opponents, but they were head-and-shoulders above Scotland. They scored late in each half from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas. Inevitably Strachan's men were reduced to a supporting role, working tirelessly to try to frustrate and harry the Group A leaders. The outcome was no surprise but on a rainy, chilly night it still felt sobering.
Often Scotland were vulnerable and exposed, especially on the wings, and consolation had to be derived from the generally sound organisation and concentration they showed against opponents of class.
For Strachan, the building process will be long. He had used his programme notes to deliver what amounted to a mission statement. "We should aspire to earn more than patronising pats on the back and sympathetic stories of how unlucky we were," he wrote. "It is a mindset change that I believe is essential. Concentration cost us victory at Wembley, not bad luck or cosmic forces, and we need to take responsibility for our actions."
It was the language of a man who's had a career founded on winning rather than having his hair ruffled after some plucky defeat. For now, the blessing is that after Croatia, England and Belgium there is what should be a gentler test against Macedonia. Every performance feels important right now, so fragile is momentum, and Tuesday's match in Skopje will pose its own questions. This defeat, and Macedonia's win over Wales, sent Scotland back to the foot of the group.
Last night was all about trying to cope with Belgium, this mouthwatering new force. Are they good enough to be taken seriously as a World Cup winner? On this evidence, not yet. For all the room and time they were allowed to deliver umpteen crosses into the Scotland area the delivery from Nacer Chadli and especially Kevin De Bruyne was too often wasteful. There wasn't much of a supply for Benteke at the front of their 4-2-3-1.
Only in this team would Benteke's physique not look out of the ordinary. Nine of their starting team were over six foot, dwarfing the Scotland players. Strachan made only two changes to the team which lost 3-2 to England last month and both of those were forced because of Kenny Miller's retirement and James Morrison's injury. Leigh Griffiths started up front and was predictably isolated. Charlie Mulgrew was preferred to James McArthur in the middle, presumably to add some height, although the game passed him by.
Belgium grabbed the night by the throat. They almost scored inside two minutes when De Bruyne's corner flew across the six-yard box without a touch. David Marshall has lost far too many goals for comfort - 19 in seven caps - and looked spooked by how close they had come so early in the game. Marshall had a blameless night, though. When De Bruyne tried a couple of efforts his positioning was sound and he dealt with them. The same when Axel Witsel had a pop.
He got a fingertip to the opening goal, too, but in truth Belgium's opener was a work of art. Steven Whittaker was given a tough old night by De Bruyne and when he cut out one pass to him with a header the ball only fell to the feet of Witsel. He fed it back to De Bruyne and the Chelsea man struck a flat, hard cross which Defour met with the most graceful, exquisite shot to sweep the ball into the far corner despite Marshall's dive.
Witsel and Marouane Fellaini were all untroubled poise in the middle, although the Manchester United man did get a booking for a crude tackle on Robert Snodgrass.
Midway through the first half Scotland knocked the ball around in midfield reasonably well and earned a breather from Belgium's control of possession and territory. Shaun Maloney, his hair and shirt stuck to him in the rain, worked himself to the point of exhaustion but could rarely free himself from his markers. He did once, thrillingly connecting with a second-half cross from the scampering substitute, and debutant, Ikechi Anya. The ball looped towards the open net but over the bar. Maloney was Scotland's best performer. Scott Brown another who put in a conspicuous shift and there was almost the rarity of a Scotland goal from him when he took the ball off Mulgrew's toes to smash a drive just wide.
Scotland were gutsy and tried their damnedest to take the second half to Belgium. Whittaker and substitute Jordan Rhodes had a sniff of a chance at the near post. An equaliser would have been delicious, but a travesty. Inevitably Belgium came again.
Two minutes from time Benteke turned Brown and slipped a pass to substitute Mirallas. Grant Hanley lunged in, missed it, and Mirallas was through. The finish was as cool as they come.