Having the best club team does not equal having the best league, and having the best league does not equal having the best national team.
We have seen this with many nations such as in Spain. Spain’s Real Madrid has been the best club team throughout history, but Spain only won their first and only World Cup thus far in 2010.
But, nonetheless, usually, if your country has a good league or good team, your national team improves too.
Scotland is a prime example of this, as are the USA and Australia.
As the Scottish league has improved once again to feature two clubs that can compete among Europe’s best, the Scottish national team is two matches away from Qualifying for their first World Cup since 1998.
Rangers victory over Braga was a victory over a side that has been consistently the #4 side in Portugal, a league that features elite teams like SL Benfica, FC Porto, and SC Portugal, as well as elite players and in a country with an elite national team, being the 2016 European Champions and the 2018-2019 UEFA Nations League Champions.
While Rangers had to wait until extra time to defeat Braga 3-2 on aggregate (2-1 in regular time and 1-0 in extra time in the second leg), and in addition, benefitted from Braga being down to 10 men after the 42nd Minute and 9 men after the 105th Minute, it was still a monumental victory because it signaled that the best in Scotland could hang with the top of some of the better leagues in Europe. Braga is not simply a side that surprisingly finished in 4th in 2020-2021, rather, Braga has been a perennial 4th place side in Portugal for a long time now. Since 1996-1997, SC Braga has finished in the Top 5 18 times, with 12 of those being 4th Place, 2 being 3rd Place, and 1 being 2nd Place. In the previous last 6 seasons, SC Braga has finished 5th once, 4th 4 times, and 3rd once, and have won the 2015-2016 and the 2020-2021 Portuguese Cup, as well as winning the 2019-2020 Portuguese League Cup, and have finished in the semi-finals or higher in at least one cup 9 of the last 10 seasons, adding one more Portuguese Cup in 2012-2013.
SC Braga’s dominance in Portugal has been very good in Europe as well, having won the 2008 UEFA Intertoto Cup (former UEFA Third Tier Club Competition) and having finished runners-up in the 2010-2011 UEFA Europa League.
Thus, this result for Rangers Football Club has propelled the Scottish #2 to a position ahead of the current Portuguese #4 side.
Now, this still means that the Scottish League is behind the likes of the Portuguese League, and plenty others in Europe. It may not even be Top 10. And then when you include the World, surely the Brazilian, Argentinian, Mexican, and others in the Americas are better, possibly even the USA’s and Canada’s when you include the amount of Scottish top division equivalent sides in these 2 nations to the Scottish League itself.
And, when you look at just Rangers itself, Rangers lost to Malmo (Sweden) in the UEFA Champions League to get to the UEFA Europa League, and then struggled against other sides from leagues assumed to be lower than the Scottish like Alashkert (Armenia) and Brøndby (Denmark).
Yet, it has not been the struggles that have defined this campaign, rather it has been the success against clubs in better leagues or comparable leagues like Sparta Praha (Czech Republic), Olympique Lyonnais (France), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Red Star Belgrade (Serbia), and now SC Braga (Portugal).
If you were to put in many other leagues top teams and put them on this path, one would expect them maybe to have gotten past Malmo, but outside of this, to have done worse than Rangers on their route to a UEFA Europa League semi-final.
Does this win mean Scotland is ready for the World Cup? No. Most of the Scottish players do not play for Rangers and most of the Rangers players are not Scottish.
But, it does make Scottish football more confident in their abilities to Qualify, and the Scottish players need this confidence when they go to take on Ukraine and potentially Wales in June.
When looking at the rise of England in the recent years, one cannot overlook that this rise has come parallel to the rise of its league, despite most of the best clubs not featuring many English men in their starting 11, or in their reserves. Likewise, a better Scottish League will likely lift the Scottish players playing in the Scottish League, of which Scotland National Team features many of these players.