Scotland finally ended 22 years of pain last Wednesday evening, when they sealed their qualification for the postponed Euro 2020 tournament after beating Serbia on penalties in Belgrade.
Steve Clarke’s Scots turned in a professional performance of high quality in Serbia, and were leading 1-0 until the dying seconds of the game when a defensive lapse at a corner saw Luka Jovic net a late equaliser for the Serbs, with the striker's decisive header beating a stretched David Marshall.
That cancelled out Ryan Christie’s second-half strike and forced the Scots to undergo the agony of extra time. Many suspected that the psychological blow of conceding the equaliser would sink the Scots. But this is a different Scottish side under Clarke, and the frailties of the past have seemingly been overcome. After hanging on and digging in, the Scots took the Serbs to a penalty shoot-out.
Five perfect spot kicks set up veteran goalkeeper Marshall , who made his international debut way back in 2004, to make the vital save that saw euphoria unfold not just among the squad in the empty stadium, but also in Scottish households back home in Scotland and across the global Scottish diaspora.
Marshall has had a tough time of it at club level in recent times, leaving Barnsley for troubled Wigan Athletic last year, and now at Derby County, a club currently bottom of the EFL Championship. If anyone deserves their moment in the spotlight, it is Marshall, who has often been way behind the likes of Craig Gordon and Allan McGregor when it comes to Scotland selection during his career. It was fitting that much of the humorous social media reaction focused on him celebrating his save.
The delight amongst the squad was clear too, as footage of the players’ singsong celebrations emerged on social media over the course of the evening. Their version of Baccara’s 1977 hit ‘Yes Sir, I can Boogie’ has proved particularly memorable. So memorable, in fact, that Baccara have actually offered to record a new version with the squad.
Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland, singer Maria Mendiola from the Spanish duo, was almost as pleased as the players. She said: "I will always thank the Scottish team and especially Andy Considine for making me so happy after 43 years. I saw all the articles and everyone was calling me. I was delighted. I thanked the Scotland team and spoke with Andy over Instagram. He had such nice words."
The collective celebration amongst Scots, both in Scotland and across the world, was marked with scenes that spoke volumes about just how long it has been since the team enjoyed any tangible success. There was an outpouring of emotion that indicated that this was a significant moment in the nation's history. Even First Minster Nicola Sturgeon joined in the social media scenes.
Bagpipes were played on Lothian Road in Edinburgh, as shirtless fans danced and sang Flower of Scotland on window sills. Social media was awash with celebrating Scots, as tears were shed and Highland flings danced in front rooms from Stornaway to Selkirk and from Shetland to the Mull of Galloway.
Ryan Christie’s post-match interview summed it all up. Tears were shed as Christie spoke about just what the result meant to him and his team-mates. There are players in this group who will have no memory at all of the last time their country qualified for a major tournament. It has been a very long wait.
The Scots were brought back down to earth on Sunday, losing 1-0 in Slovakia in a Nations League clash. They face Israel on Thursday in the same competition, with victory assuring them of a group win and promotion to League A of the Nations League. Topping their group will also give them a good chance of making the play-offs for World Cup 2022 qualification.
Scotland’s last tournament adventure took place at the World Cup in France in 1998, and there have been years of heartbreak, disappointment and glorious failure ever since. The Scots are now set to face England at Wembley at Euro 2020, if things go as planned in these Covd-19 hit times – something that seasons the anticipation even further.
Clarke’s team will also face the Czech Republic and Croatia in games that are supposed to take place at Hampden Park in Glasgow. That’s tough group, even with those home games to look forward to, and the Scots will do well to progress.
For any punters casting their eyes over the odds for Euro 2020, Scotland are 250/1 at Betfair to win the tournament outright, which is a bit of a long shot even for Ryan Christie and co. Christie is 200/1 to be the tournament’s top goalscorer, the same odds as John McGinn. Lyndon Dykes is priced at 250/1 on the same market.
Given that Betfair have made England striker Harry Kane the favourite to be the tournament’s leading scorer, pricing him at 5/1, Scotland really are in a David versus Goliath scenario for their trip to Wembley. Betfair have also made England joint-favourites to win the tournament, giving them odds of 5/1, the same as Belgium and France.
If Scotland could get out the group and reach the knock-out phases of a major tournament for the first time then that would be enough for most fans. The scenes of celebration should that happen would really be something to savour.
One thing is certain, major tournaments over the last 22 years have missed something without the Tartan Army being present. To see the Scottish fans ‘coming doon the road’ again should cheer the hearts of football fans everywhere who love a spectacle.
Another certainty is that we’re sure to hear ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ hundreds of times between now and then. The Tartan Army have another anthem to add to their catalogue of tunes. As for the team recording a version, well let’s just wait and see what happens with that.
Given the way that Clarke’s men have produced glory in recent times, we wouldn’t bet against it being a hit.
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