There were no outstanding candidates to succeed McLeish, but the SFA narrowed it down to Scotland legend Graeme Souness, Motherwell manager Mark McGhee, Southampton's George Burley, and former assistant Tommy Burns. The bookies favourite was McGhee, but the sudden death of Motherwell captain Phil O'Donnell lay doubt over whether he would leave Motherwell. On 24th January George Burley was appointed as the Scotland manager. Controversy followed when 77 times capped, former England captain Terry Butcher was appointed as his assistant, along with Steven Pressley.
The George Burley era began with a creditable 1-1 draw with Croatia, but things did not get much better as a 3-1 defeat to Czech Republic was followed by a 0-0 draw at home to 10 man Northern Ireland. Things were not looking promising going into the World Cup Qualifiers, as Scotland had gone five games without a win. The qualification campaign got off to a terrible start as Scotland lost 1-0 away to Macedonia, and people were already calling for Burley's head. Four days later Scotland gained a much needed 2-1 victory in Reykjavik, but Scotland were holding on at the end after McManus had been sent off. When Norway visited Hampden, nothing more than a victory would be good enough. Scotland could only get a 0-0 draw though, after debutant Chris Iwelumo missed an open goal. After the match Kris Boyd retired from international football for as long as Burley was manager as he had only played 28 minutes in six games. The year ended with a 1-0 defeat to Argentina in Diego Maradona's first match as their manager.
James McFadden is tackled by Cristian Villagra of Argentina in the 1-0 defeat at Hampden Park.
In March 2009, there was a big World Cup double header away to Holland and at home to Iceland. In the first match, Scotland were outclassed by the Dutch and defeated 3-0. There was some controversy as a perfectly good headed goal by Gary Caldwell has disallowed. There was even more controversy for the following match. Both Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor were dropped as they had been out drinking after the team arrived back in Scotland. It was later revealed that a large part of the team had been out drinking and that Burley had sanctioned it. Scotland won the game 2-1, which was only Burley's second win. More controversy followed as both Ferguson and McGregor sat on the bench making hand gestures during the match. This led to both players being banned for life from playing for Scotland, and both players being reprimanded by Rangers.
In August Scotland faced an important qualifier away to Norway. Two goals in either half gave Norway a 4-0 victory and all but ended Scotland's World Cup campaign. The following month Scotland faced Macedonia at Hampden needing a win. A great second half display gave Scotland a much deserved 2-0 win with Brown and McFadden the scorers. Four days later they faced the Dutch. A great performance by Scotland saw them have chance after chance, but a late winner by the Dutch ended Scotland's qualification chances. To rub salt into the wounds, a Norwegian victory over Macedonia saw them leapfrog Scotland on goal difference. If only Scotland had performed in their first six matches the same as they had in their last two, they could have easily won a play-off place.
The Scotland team line up before the 3-0 defeat to Holland in Amsterdam.
Six days after the defeat by Holland, following crunch talks with the SFA, it was decided that Burley would remain as manager. Pressley quit as his assistant. Former Dundee Utd manager Paul Hegarty took over as coach. Scotland then travelled to Japan for a friendly, with a depleted squad after 10 players withdrew. An inexperienced side lost 2-0. The following month Scotland travelled to Cardiff and suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat to an average Welsh side. Following the match many people were calling for Burley's head, and two days later their wishes were granted when George Burley was sacked. When Burley took charge, Scotland were ranked 14th in the World. They were now ranked 46th in the World.
When the search for a new manager began, Walter Smith and Dundee Utd manager Craig Levein were the two front runners. Walter Smith quickly ruled himself out of the job, but as his contract at Rangers was near an end, the SFA still considered him. There was interest from abroad as Romanian Dan Petrescu and Italian Nevio Scala put themselves forward for the Job. On 23rd December, Craig Levein was named as the new Scotland manager. Following Levein's appointment, exiled players Kris Boyd, Allan McGregor and Lee McCulloch returned to the Scotland setup. In Levein's first game, Scotland defeated Czech Republic at Hampden in a friendly. This was followed by a 3-0 defeat away to Sweden in the build up to the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Scott Brown, Kenny Miller, Darren Fletcher, and Graham Dorrans celebrate after Scott Brown scores the winner in the 1-0 victory over Czech Republic.
Scotland's Euro 2012 qualification campaign started with a goalless draw away to Lithuania. This was followed by an embarrassing home match against minnows Liechtenstein. It needed a 97th minute winner from Stephen McManus to earn a 2-1 win after Liechtenstein had earlier gone ahead. In the next match away to Czech Republic, there was controversy regarding the lineup and formation when in-form Kenny Miller was dropped and Craig Levein chose a 4-6-0 formation with no strikers. The match ended in a 1-0 defeat and Levein was slated for his tactics. Four days later, World and European Champions Spain came to Hampden and took a 2 goal lead. Scotland then fought back to level the tie, before Spain scored a late winner. The following month, a side full of inexperienced players put on a fine performance in a 3-0 victory against the Faroe Islands in a friendly. The following spring the inaugural Nations Cup took place in Dublin, with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Republic of Ireland taking part. Scotland began with an impressive 3-0 win over Northern Ireland. This was followed by a 3-1 win over Wales, which was Scotland's first victory over the Welsh since 1984. In the deciding match, Scotland were defeated 1-0 by Republic of Ireland, to finish as runner-up. Sandwiched in-between these games was a friendly against Brazil that ended 2-0 to Brazil at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.
The Scotland team line up before the 3-2 defeat to World Champions Spain at Hampden Park.
The new season started with an impressive 2-1 win against Denmark, who were 40 places above Scotland in the FIFA World Rankings. This was followed by the must win double header against Czech Republic and Lithuania in the Euro 2012 Qualifiers. Against the Czechs Scotland twice went ahead through Miller and Fletcher but a blatant dive handed them a penalty in injury time that gave them a 2-2 draw. A few days later a weakened Scotland team earned a 1-0 victory against Lithuania through a second half goal by Steven Naismith. A month later Spain did Scotland a favour by defeating the Czechs 2-0 in Prague. This meant that Scotland's 1-0 victory in Liechtenstein thanks to a Craig Mackail-Smith header, put Scotland in second place with one game remaining. In the final round of matches, Scotland had to at least match Czech Republic's scoreline, who were away to Lithuania, while Scotland were away to World and European Champions Spain. Only five minutes into the game Scotland's hopes were crushed as just as Czech Republic took the lead, so did Spain. Spain went on to win 3-1, with Scotland's consolation coming through a Goodwillie penalty. In the other match the Czechs won 4-1 to claim the play-off spot making it seven tournaments in a row that Scotland failed to qualify for.
Darren Fletcher scores Scotland's second goal in the 2-2 with Czech Republic at Hampden Park.
Following the Euro 2012 qualifiers, Scotland played friendlies away to Cyprus (2-1), Slovenia (1-1), and USA (1-5) which did not symbolise a good end to the season. The new season started with a good win at home to Australia (3-1), which was a good build up to the 2014 world cup campaign. The campaign did not get off to a good start with Scotland drawing their first two games at home, firstly 0-0 with Serbia and then 1-1 with Macedonia. Scotland were at crisis point and needed at least 3 points from their next 2 away games. They looked to have got 3 points away to Wales before a poor refereeing display handed Wales all three points in a 2-1 defeat. Four days later Scotland were completely outplayed in Brussels to recieve a 2-0 defeat to Belgium. Many people were calling for Levein's head, who had only recorded 3 competitive wins in 12 games; with these games being home and away to Liechtenstein and at home to Lithuania. It was three weeks later when the SFA decided to sack Craig Levein. Billy Stark was put in temporary charge for the friendly against Luxembourg.
Scotland celebrate Jordan Rhodes' equaliser against Australia in the 3-1 victory.