IT is at times like this you have to remind people that Scotland once taught football to the world. Tartan Army supporters with long memories have long presumed that the nadir of the national team came on a windswept hilltop in Toftir in September 2002.

If you haven’t banished the thought of it from your minds, that was when a side led by Berti Vogts and packed with unfamiliar names were two down to the Faroe Islands within 12 minutes, before Paul Lambert and Barry Ferguson somehow salvaged a 2-2 draw.

Evening Times: Alex McLeish shows his frustration on the touchlineAlex McLeish shows his frustration on the touchline

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Yesterday in the Astana Arena debunked that notion once as horribly complacent once and for all. In many ways this was a new low for a once-proud football nation. And who knows whether Scotland have further depths to plumb yet.

That 2-2 draw in Toftir, the 9-3 debacle against England at Wembley in 1961, all were probably blown out of the water by this 3-0 humbling to a Kazakhstan side ranked by Fifa as the 117th best team on the planet.

While Kazakhstan earned a creditable 2-2 draw with Poland at this venue back in 2016, they had won just four competitive matches in the last decade. Scotland join Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra in that particular list of shame and the worst news of all is that scoreline didn’t even flatter them.

Playing in a city suddenly renamed Nursultan in honour of the outgoing President, everybody was unrecognisable yesterday. If the stars of Scotland’s Premiership were largely rendered unfamiliar to the superstars who strut their stuff in front of packed, adoring crowds each week, so too were the Kazakhs.

Mostly content to play their football at home, the men in yellow jerseys yesterday were suddenly transformed into world beaters. Alexander Merkel, a German/Kazakh who is one of the few based abroad, in Holland, was excellent. So was Islambek Kuat, a 26-year-old who currently showcases his talent at Kairat Almaty.

The fact that Alex McLeish already has a Nations League play-off in March 2020 in his back pocket will keep the Scotland manager in a job this morning. But this was a result which will do nothing for his long-term job security and re-ignite question marks as to the unwieldy recruitment process which alighted on his name in the first place once main target Michael O’Neill had decided to give the designation a wide berth.

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There was partial mitigation for McLeish, of course, in the fact the national coach was without a full team worth of international quality players here. If, that is, it isn’t part of his job description to ensure that call-offs are kept to a minimum.

With Ryan Fraser and Callum Paterson not prepared to play on the artificial surface at the Astana Arena, and experienced figures like Allan McGregor and Steven Fletcher preferring to take care of their bodies for club duty, the list of absentees included our two world-class left backs, Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney.

The former was posted missing as he recovers after getting a dental abscess removed. Facts like that only made this defeat more like pulling teeth for the Tartan Army.

Perhaps in the days and weeks that follow, some of those players will rue the fact they weren’t playing here. Perhaps others will simply be relieved that they weren’t, and that their reputations were able to avoid the consequent savaging.

But instead of a free hit at our first major qualification since 1998, our campaign to qualify for Euro 2020 by right already looks forlorn. Even bucking the trend and achieving more than our usual 2-0 win in San Marino on Sunday won’t lift the national mood much.

Michal Bilek, the Kazakh coach, was a man with some previous against Scotland, having masterminded the 1-0 win for the Czech Republic that fateful day when Craig Levein lined the nation up in a 4-6-0 formation. So abject were Scotland here that in retrospect McLeish might as well have gone for that formation again in an attempt to eke a solitary away point.

Evening Times: Graeme Shinnie cuts a dejected figureGraeme Shinnie cuts a dejected figure

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Instead, Scotland started in a progressive 4-3-3 shape, playing with ambition and building from the back. The optimism lasted all of six minutes. That was how long it took for one straight pass from the unharried but generally excellent Merkel and one simple run from out to in from Astana midfielder Yuriy Pertsukh to catch our defence hopelessly square and make our approach look like reckless folly.

How McLeish must have winced at some of the defending on show. To say this was an untested back four was stating the obvious but the Kazakhs in particular seemed determined to make Graeme Shinnie, pressed into a left back role for the first time in a while, and his Aberdeen colleague Scott McKenna look silly. That area was exploited all day long.

Next to bisect the left half of the Scotland rearguard was Kuat, Shinnie too slow to identify the threat posed by Yan Vorogovskiy, who finished his sublime through pass from close range. His misery well nigh complete when a well-placed deep cross from Gafurzhan Suyumbayev once again found space between this Aberdeen duo, Baktiyar Zaynutdinov producing a fine angled header, Shinnie ended the match taking scores in an attempt to take his frustrations out on the world.

It isn’t how you start that matters, it is how you finish – or so they say. With plenty of games to go during this campaign, Scotland can at least cling to that this morning. But this was another sobering occasion even for the Tartan Army. With our defenders exposed and our strikers unable to hoard enough ball, even Scotland’s midfield, the strongest area of this team, was outnumbered and largely outdone.

Even first-time captain Callum McGregor ended the day in a heated on-pitch discussion with coach James McFadden. It kind of said it all about a Scotland side who might have given the game to the world but had just been taught the mother of all lessons.