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The Astana Arena: were plastic turf and noise reverberation to blame for the Scots' downfall?

Before kick-off at the Astana Arena, a trip to Kazakhstan for the Tartan Army was seen as an adventure and a chance to explore the globe while watching Scotland claim three points. After just ten minutes of the tie, all the feelings of peace that a holiday abroad normally brings dissipated, as the Kazakhs raced into an astonishing lead.

Any talk of a second-half fightback was quickly put to bed as Bakhtiyar Zaynutdinov rose highest to put his team 3-0 up with a powerful header. That would be the way proceedings ended and, for the very first time in their history, Scotland had lost to Kazakhstan, a team ranked 117th in the world rankings, some 67 places below Scotland.

It beggars belief how the Scots managed to bungle their trip to Kazakhstan in the fashion they did. And if a defeat wasn't bad enough - a loss to Kazakhstan doesn't bode well for any sort of qualification campaign when Scotland have upcoming fixtures against Belgium and Russia to contend with - three unanswered goals may play a crucial part in their hopes of Euro 2020 qualification if goal difference comes into the equation.

Speaking after the game, Alex McLeish said he was confident Scotland would bounce back but it wouldn't be totally unfair to say that particular viewpoint is in the slenderest of minorities. So, in Scotland's defence (as with any upset that takes place in professional sport), were there mitigating factors at play here?

It's unlikely many predicted things would go the way they did in the Astana Arena but even before kick-off, the pros at betconnect had an inkling that something wasn't right, warning it would be a tricky opener for Scotland. Their top football tips took account of the fact that the visiting squad would have to contend with a plastic pitch and even backed an unlikely Kazakhstan win at 7/2. These artificial surfaces can stifle a team's play and could easily be one of the reasons that Alex McLeish's men never really got going.

Prior to the match, the Astana Arena should have rung alarm bells in another area, too. The noise in the stadium can quadruple once the hosts decide to close the roof - as they did against Scotland - and that can throw a team off. The Scots may have not taken that as seriously as they should have done. The home side were in fine voice after two early goals and their noisy celebrations reverberated around the ground, bouncing off the roof and across the pitch. It proved too much for an inexperienced Scottish side to ever come to grips with. McLeish should have warned against the perils of a fast start for the Kazakhs and perhaps he did, but the players were unable to get that early foothold that could have made all the difference.

Very few supporters will ever have the privilege of going to Kazakhstan to watch their team play, so the experience provides at least some consolation for those that did. The Tartan Army will have to chalk it down to mitigating circumstances and find a way to move on so that they don't miss out on their own party, as co-hosts of Euro 2020.

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