the home of cult football
As participants in the first ever international football match there have been some glory nights for our Tartan cousins down the years. They've never progressed beyond the group stages of a major tournament, but in reaching every World Cup between 1974 and 1990 and always raising the game when the Auld Enemy hove into view, they have traditionally punched above their weight internationally (yes, we know, pre-Bertie).
We've decided to do our bit at MD by putting forward our selection of the most momentous games in Scottish football history...
This gets top spot not because it suffers from the short term memory syndrome that affects many 'best of' lists (think Men Behaving Badly being voted the best sitcom of all time at the height of its popularity. Aye, right). No, this gets top spot because of the circumstances. There was no Law. No Bremner, Dalglish or Jordan. No Souness, McGrain or McCoist. There was Pearson. There was Alexander, McManus, McCulloch and Hartley. But most of all there was McFadden. France meanwhile contained names such as Vieira, Thuram, Anelka and Makalele. This was a team that had reached a World Cup final, barely a year before. Compared with the France team of 1989 (see No. 6), this was a team of genuine thoroughbreds. It was also played in Paris, at the old Parc des Princes stadium, due to priority at Stade de France being given to the Rugby World Cup. There was also 15-20,000 Scots in the crowd to lend the atmosphere a Caledonian spirit. Scotland played with discipline and guile as well as the inevitable passion. France were anodyne throughout and though McFadden's audacious goal was a bolt from nowhere, it wasn't undeserved. France then pressed forward relentlessly, but the Scottish defence, by now playing the old 9-1-0 formation was more than equal to the task. Craig Gordon was unflappable in goal but wasn't called on as much as expected due to the heroics in front of him. The final whistle brought rapture and disbelief. To beat France at their Hampden lair was one thing. To do it in Paris (ooer missus), quite another. Scotland's greatest players had never put their names to a victory as great as this.
A match that summed up a kamikaze World Cup for the Scots in Argentina. The hype and expectation that followed Ally McLeod's army to Buenos Aires was, if we might be so bold, a trifle optimistic. McLeod had lauded his team in the months building up to the tournament as one which wouldn't just be contenders. They would return from South America as with the cup. There even an open top bus tour around a packed Hampden before departure. It was hubristic nonsense. Scotland utterly overestimated Peru as they went down 3-1, before an embarrassing draw with Iran. Then came the doping scandal as winger Willie Johnston failed a drug test and was sent home. Scotland's final match was to be a thumping from the Dutch and an ignominious retreat home. But typically Scotland confounded the predictions with a classic performance. This against the best team in Europe and eventual finalists. Archie Gemmill's famous goal had put Scotland 3-1 up and with them needing an improbable three goal margin of victory the miracle was on. Sadly, it wasn't to be. The Dutch scored a second and that was that. But what an exit. It didn't paper over the cracks and the tournament is still remembered with unease by many fans north of the border. But as futile but glorious gestures go, the Holland match takes some beating and showed what this team were capable of.
The Scots never miss an opportunity to complain about 1966. Yet they have their own version of this desire to cling to the occasional moments of triumph that British teams manage - 1967. This was the match when they proclaimed themselves unofficial World Champions, by beating the World Champions - England, 3-2 at Wembley. The match was also a European Championship qualifier, as the home internationals were used that year. Even though this was one of Scotland's finest ever performances it wasn't enough to win the group. The Scottish team was surely one of the best they have ever fielded. It contained four men who were a month from making history as European Cup winners with Celtic. Rangers legends John Greig and Jim Baxter were also there, though Baxter was now at Sunderland. Plus there were the two great Anglos, Scots who played in England. Billy Bremner and Denis Law require no introduction. England's team was unchanged from a year earlier apart from Jimmy Greaves replacing Roger Hunt, so it was hardly a team in transition. Law, Lennox and McCalliog scored the goals for Scotland, but the most famous moment was Baxter, juggling the ball, taunting the auld enemies. The result sparked the first of those Wembley pitch invasions from the huge visiting support.
A massive night in the history of the national team. Scotland hadn't qualified for a World Cup for 16 years and had to beat the Czechs to earn their place in West Germany the following summer. Scotland's manager Willie Ormond had got off to a poor start losing five of his first six fixtures. However, progress had then been rapid and it had all come down to this match. Another enormous Hampden crowd of 96,000 created an intimidating atmosphere for the visitors, who were an accomplished side. In less than three years time they would be champions of Europe. However, their tactics were over zealous and crude. Scotland's attackers were subjected to a plethora of vicious fouls early on, causing the crowd to chant "Animals" at their opponents. A speculative effort by the silky Nehoda was palmed inadvertently into the net by the keeper, Hunter. But before half time the hosts were level thanks to a Jim Holton header. A young Joe Jordan of Leeds had replaced Dalglish and with 15 minutes to go he sent a nation into hysterics with a diving header. So sit back in a comfy chair, pour yourself a drink and watch this four second clip of Big Joe's goal.
Scotland's biggest ever victory at Wembley earned the team of 1928 the nickname of 'The Wembley Wizards'. Yet this was set against a background of dominance from the Scots during the 1920s. England hadn't beaten Scotland at home since a 5-4 victory in 1920 at Bramall Lane. Although England had beaten Scotland in Glasgow the previous year, the years separating these victories had been barren. Scotland had dropped the goal scoring machine that was Celtic's Jimmy McGrory and none of the five attacking players were over 5ft 7. With the great Alex James and Hughie Gallacher running the show Scotland cantered to an epic victory, barely tarnished by a late consolation goal. The Scottish tradition of neat, short passing had possibly never been better demonstrated before this game. A fabled Scottish football moment was created.
On a blustery, damp March night in 1989 Scotland went a long way towards securing an appearance at a fifth successive World Cup by beating a French side that, while in decline, still possessed talents such as Papin, Amoros, Sauzee and Blanc. But Scotland had some pretty good players too. Gough, McLeish and Nicol provided the strength and passion, Paul McStay the invention in midfield and Ally McCoist was a fabled goalscorer. But it was Mo Johnston's night. Johnston, still five months away from his infamous transfer to Rangers, scored both goals on a night of personal accomplishment. A Hampden crowd of over 65,000 acclaimed a magnificent team performance over a shell shocked French side. The win enabled the Scots to have a huge advantage over the French and they were able to overcome defeat in Paris to join Yugoslavia in reaching Italy.
It ultimately led to a debacle in Amsterdam, but this was the biggest high point in Bertie Vogts ill-starred reign. Actually, it was the only high point in Bertie Vogts' reign. Scotland were complete outsiders for this tie having staggered through a group of total mediocrity to finish behind Germany and earn a play off berth against Holland. The Dutch were still feeling their way back after failing to qualify for the 2002 World Cup but still possessed formidable names such as Davids, Overmars, Stam and Van Nistelrooy. Yet a brave, controlled display saw them beat the far more technical Dutch with a super goal from a young James McFadden midway through the 1st half. McFadden providing an early benchmark of his ability to produce in the really big games. Inevitably, the Dutch through the cheese board at Scotland as the match wore on but to little avail. Scotland had produced their best Hampden result for 14 years. In the return leg however all the good things that Scotland had done seemed to be forgotten as the Dutch strolled to a 6-0 slaughter. The Vogts optimism was a brief flicker, but it provided a taster of a more substantial revival to come.
A crucial, nerve shredding match was reduced to an irrelevance with the events of the final whistle. The scenario was quite simple. Wales needed a win, Scotland the draw. The prize was a play off against Australia and probably qualification for the Mexico World Cup. On a night of incredible tension Wales took the lead through Mark Hughes. In the attached clip Graeme Souness described how he couldn't watch the 2nd half. The match reached an almost unbearable conclusion when, with less than 10 minutes to go, Scotland were awarded a slightly fortuitous penalty. Davie Cooper despatched the kick and Scotland were through. However, the night had been too much for the legendary Jock Stein. At the final whistle he collapsed and died after a heart attack. His death utterly overshadowed what should have been a night of personal and national triumph. Cooper, who sadly died prematurely at 39, summed it up - "It was a dreadful moment when nothing, least of all a football match, seemed to have any significance. No one moved, no one did anything." A tragic, landmark night in the history of Scottish football.
Before the astonishing events in Paris a year later, this was one of the most unlikely results in Scotland's history. France went into the match as the 2nd best team in the world thanks to their efforts in Germany. They were to largely dominate the match as well. However, the expected goal never came. Midway through the second half Scotland applied some pressure, won some dead balls around the box and from one of them Gary Caldwell popped up to bury a low finish past Coupet. Scotland then spent the final 25 minutes repelling attack after attack in a manner not dissimilar to how the Chippendales would fend off a hen party from Halifax. Afterwards the French were not exactly complimentary about their victors with Thierry Henry in particular, peppering the area surrounding his pram with toys. Revenge would surely come in Paris a year later...
The one with the famous pitch invasion. This was the match where the England versus Scotland reached something of a peak for those of a Caledonian perspective. A peak in terms of the point where the biannual trip down south had begun to eat itself. In the 1996 European Championship match there were around 8,000 Scots present. Nearly two decades before the figure was more like 70,000. This was a golden era for Scottish football as they qualified for two World Cups, while their southern neighbours failed both times. Gordon McQueen opened the scoring with a towering header past Clemence and in the 2nd half Dalglish scrambled the ball home from close range. Mick Channon pulled one back for England, but it wasn't really about the match. England were in a trough and the result was largely predictable. The game was memorable for what followed. An incredible, drunken pitch invasion that saw the grass ripped up and the posts snapped by celebrating fans. John Motson's not exactly PC comments "the scenes so typically Scottish", continue to irritate north of Hadrian's Wall. After this match the annual fixture began to die a slow death. The 1980s saw the Wembley games played in midweek to discourage visiting supporters from travelling. The last was played in 1988.