Scotland returned to the bottom of Group A after their fifth defeat in eight games as goals from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas gave Belgium a predictable and deserved win. Strachan's men were gutsy and made some second-half chances, and the final score amounted to a tolerable defeat, but generally they were out of their depth against a supremely gifted Belgian side.
The visiting players and management exuberantly celebrated their imminent qualification for the 2014 finals in Brazil with a 7000-strong travelling support at full-time.
Strachan drooled over the physical strength and athleticism of the group leaders and likened the contest to a boxing match between a flyweight and a heavyweight. "There were points where we stumbled and slipped a few times, gave the ball away in areas that cost us, but I do feel a bit sorry for them after putting so much work in against probably one of the best teams in the world.
"I'm not really 'upbeat'; the disappointment is too great. But what I do feel is that it's been very hard on the players tonight, to put as much as they did into the game and not to get much from it. They are the best team we've played in the last three games [including matches against Croatia and England]. In fact, in international football that's one of the best sides I've seen, played against, managed against.
"I think when you talk about top players, you saw a lot of top players there tonight. But also their physicality is just incredible, which made it harder for our players. It was like a flyweight versus a heavyweight. It's very hard to keep taking these knocks and shoves but they kept at it.
"What do we do about genetics? You stand in that tunnel, look at the size of them, their strength and pace. We've got hearts as big as them. But it's like the rugby when you're up against a pack that is two or three stone heavier, you are always going to go back the way.
"Listen, the players are taking in everything that we say. But there are things we cannot do at this moment. We cannot make players bigger, stronger or quicker. We cannot do that at this moment so we have to deal with what we've got and find a formation that suits us. I think the formation, to a certain extent, is fine. But that's all we've got at the moment. When you look at what their team can do it's a different ball game. Our main striker [Leigh Griffiths] is playing against Stevenage and Crawley. Their strikers are playing at the top end of the Premiership."
Strachan identified Shaun Maloney, Scott Brown, James Forrest, Charlie Mulgrew and David Marshall for praise. "We had 14 performances from the heart. No problem with that. So I got as much as I think we could have got. There was a time in the second half when I thought 'fine, we're going to get an equaliser here'. If someone had just had a wee bit of magic. But at the moment we have to put in 20 passes to get an attempt on goal, a lot of passing, a lot of work. It's very hard for us to score goals at the moment. I thought we were going to get something because they had hit us with their best punches and we kept coming back."
Scotland fly to Macedonia tomorrow morning, knowing defeat in their penultimate game of the campaign would condemn them to finishing bottom of the group. Robert Snodgrass will miss Tuesday's game in Skopje because of suspension after being booked in the first half.