It does not take long for anticipation to turn into foreboding. Scotland started their World Cup qualifiers with a goalless stalemate and already there is angst. The problem has far more to do with the passage of 14 years than a well-intentioned yet often drab showing against Serbia. There is no obvious reason to think that the side will eventually return to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998.
Saturday's display was mostly dull, underlining a competence that does not quite stretch to incisiveness. That factor is aggravated by the fact that Steven Fletcher was not in the party. The striker moved from Wolves to Sunderland in the summer for £12m and has had an impact in these early days at the Stadium of Light.
There have been differences between Fletcher and the Scotland manager Craig Levein. It would be nonsensical to suppose that the player is sure to devastate defences but countries of Scotland's restricted terms can scarcely afford to fall out with any candidate. Already there is a strain on a squad who must regroup and deal with Macedonia at home on Tuesday.
Levein, depending on interpretation, is either single-minded or self-destructively obstinate. "I am the manager," he said, "and I pick the team, not the supporters." It is a statement that would be repeated by everyone in this line of work. In practice Levein also understands perfectly well that the view taken of him will depend on the points total.
The crowd was not in rebellion at the weekend but neither could they have been satisfied with the display. Levein is still wise enough to know that there can be only ruin ahead for a manager who reaches for an opinion poll when he is trying to decide who ought to be in the lineup. He also took his time about sending on Jordan Rhodes, a forward who has been getting renewed attention since he switched from Huddersfield Town to Blackburn Rovers for £8m.
"We do go to extremes," Levein remarked of public feeling. "Jordan is a young lad and I'll make judgments on what I see in training. He has come on the scene and scored a lot of goals, so in the minds of supporters – rightly so – Jordan equals goals. But that doesn't always work."
Tact alone might have stopped Levein from commenting that those goals have come in the Championship and League One. Nonetheless he might also see good reason to place some faith in a newcomer. Should Scotland not beat Macedonia, with or without Rhodes, the sense of a blighted campaign will already be overwhelming.
There were minor consolations on Saturday and the Huddersfield left-back Paul Dixon can be proud of a debut in which he was unflustered and effective. Elsewhere there was more of a queasy drama to the afternoon, with Allan McGregor pulling off a good save to deny Dusan Tadic in the closing moments.
It is the outfield players, however, who must now come to the rescue. There is already a barely muffled dread that Macedonia, too, will cope in Glasgow. Levein, with his trust in a 4-1-4-1 system, cannot afford an unproductive forward at the tip of the attack, yet Kenny Miller, now on the books of Vancouver Whitecaps, must be nearing the end of his Scotland career, so tempting the manager to ponder Rhodes.
Scotland were never inspiring but any openings that Miller and others did find were repeatedly misused. Levein's concept of the national team gleams only in the imagination. He extolled the contrasting gifts of the midfield quartet but he was recounting a vision of the future instead of describing the merely respectable work that had been carried out.
Levein believes in the potential of the squad and his vision of what Scotland may achieve is appealing but the piece of fulfilment to be craved most for the moment is a win against Macedonia.