Scotland rises again after a long wait

“You’re a 22-years-old Scottish football fan. What’s the experience you’ve never had? The national team competing in a major competition”. This was a frequent joke among Scottish fans all over these years of football repression. Not any more. Scotland is back to the first class football foreground by Thursday night.

The national football team made another glorious and anxious performance in Belgrade, Serbia, where they managed to overcome the Serbian national team on penalty kicks in a one-off playoff match for the Euro 2021 finals phase. They took advantage of the first qualifying path based on the inaugural UEFA Nations League competition, which was snubbed by many national teams as such. This was their lucky strike.

After overtaking Israel and Albania in group stage, Scotland had to play again versus Israel the first playoff match of the qualifying playoff path C. The match was held in empty Hampden Park, Glasgow. Both 90 minutes and overtime ended in a goalless draw and in the penalty shoot-out nobody of the Scottish players missed. Goalkeeper David Marshall saved a penalty by Israeli star Eran Zahavi to secure progression in the playoff final.

There was another drama there, as Scotland took the lead in 52th minute by a Ryan Christie shot, but was equalized by a header deep into the injury time. However, the Scots have managed to keep the equal score and again never missed from the penalty spot when needed. This time Aleksandar Mitrovic was the one that missed the crucial last penalty for the Serbian side.

This is the first Scottish qualification in a major football competition since the 1998 FIFA World Cup, which was held in France. Scotland also participated in the first expanded Euro (with 16 teams competing), held in 1996 in England, but missed all later rendez-vous.

What happened to the second oldest national team in the world to miss so many chances? In fact, Scotland wasn’t so bad to lose all hope from the beginning, but never too good to grab a ticket for a Euro or FIFA World Cup. In various qualifying stages they managed to keep a positive record. In five FIFA World Cup qualifying competitions they have an 18w-13d-17l record, scoring 52 goals and conceding 48. Additionally, in five Euro qualifying stages they have an 26w-10d-16l record, scoring 81 goals and conceding 60. In these 20+ years they changed 10 managers before Steve Clark took them again to glorious paths.

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