Scotland have made a predictably difficult start to their latest bid to appear in the finals of a major tournament and after two draws, against Austria and Israel respectively, it is a must win match v Faroe Islands in World Cup Qualifying on Wednesday night at Hampden. Alex Horsburgh
Scotland and their difficulties with so called "minnows" is a tale of woe covering more than forty years. Radio presenter @AlexHTheMAX revisits six occasions when Scotland flattered to deceive against nations who, on paper at least, seemed to have no chance against the men in dark blue.
1. Peru 3-1 Scotland / Iran 1-1 Scotland (1978)
A dead heat at the top of our nightmare top five and arguably the matches that began Scotland's uncomfortable relationship with the underdog.
The hype that surrounded Scotland before the 1978 Argentina World Cup cannot be overstated. It was the ultimate football fairytale but sadly it was written before a ball was even kicked in South America.
After seeing off one of the best post-war Welsh international sides and European Champions Czeckoslovakia to qualify for a second successive World Cup in the 1970s, the Scots revelled in the fact that they had again qualified while auld rivals England hadn't.
Manager Ally MacLeod was a charismatic, and far from dour, Scot full of enthusiasm and can do attitude which had fostered success at Ayr Utd then Aberdeen where he had inspired great play from, on the surface of it, ordinary club teams.
When Willie Ormond left the national team manager's post in 1977, MacLeod was a popular choice to replace him. He cemented his place as a possible saviour of international football north of the border by leading Scotland to their first Wembley win in ten years on 4 June 1977 (1-2).
Qualification for Argentina soon followed, but Scotland tempted fate for the finals by doing an open top bus parade for the adoring Tartan Army around Hampden Park... BEFORE leaving for World Cup '78!
It was all going to script when Joe Jordan put Scotland ahead in just 9 minutes against Peru in the opening group match in the finals, but then Scotland sat back allowing Cueto to equalise two minutes before the break.
Scotland were awarded a penalty at 1-1 in the second half but Don Masson shot too close to Quiroga and the Peru goalie saved easily.
The two stunning free kicks from Cubillas, seemingly past his best, that followed are still things of legend in Lima and nightmares in Glasgow. The final score of 3-1 had turned Ally MacLeod from hero to villain in the space of 90 minutes.
There was to be no return to form for the shell-shocked Scots a few days later v Iran and the 1-1 draw (Scotland equalising with a bizarre own goal) effectively ended their interest in the tournament. Some Scottish fans did not even wait for the last, more glorious failure v Holland. However it was a 3-2 Scotland win, containing the goal of the tournament from Archie Gemmill, with the unexpected victory putting Scotland out on goal difference.
|Scotland's loss to Peru was a painful start to the 1978 World Cup|
2. Costa Rica 1-0 Scotland (1990)
History repeats 12 years after Peru in Argentina as Costa Rica beat Andy Roxburgh's side at Italia '90.
Ironically, Roxburgh had told Ally MacLeod to have Peru watched pre-Argentina (MacLeod didn't) but despite meticulous planning and a low key approach pre-World Cup 1990, the trouble with minnows again proved Scotland's achilles heel as Cayasso made the breakthrough four minutes after half time.
Roxburgh suffered the curse of Scotland as Goliath v David elsewhere outside the World Cup too. Draws against Malta and Luxembourg in the late 1980s were particularly embarrassing, and once again Scotland were home before the postcards at Italia '90, despite recovering to beat Sweden 2-1. They would go through the customary 'must-win' drama in the third group match, only to lose 1-0 to Brazil via a scrappy goal that was certainly more Stenhousemuir than South America.
|Costa Rica provided Scotland with another frustrating World Cup loss|
3. Faroe Islands 2-2 Scotland (2002)
When Scotland were 2-0 down at half-time to the Faroe Islands in 2002, (Euro 2004 qualifying), ashen-faced anchorman Dougie Donnelly in the BBC Scotland studio told the viewers at home it was the worst performance he had ever seen from a Scottish team. At least we came back to draw 2-2 that day, but what a struggle and it confirmed that a new century would not see the back of Scotland struggling against international sides that shouldn't have been living with a nation that helped shape the modern game.
Paul Lambert and Barry Ferguson rescued a point with the goals and Matt Elliot of Leicester City was sent off but it left Berti Vogts still without a win in six fixtures after taking over from Craig Brown.
|Faroe Islands very nearly beat the Scots in 2002|
4. Luxembourg 0-0 Scotland (1988)
Don't laugh at the Irish at the weekend because we've been there.
Scotland beat Bulgaria away to allow Rep of Ireland to go to Euro '88, and then with typical pervesity drew in the principality in their final match to hand Luxembourg their only qualifying point with the Scots wrecking their own chances of finishing third in the qualifying group.
Manager Andy Roxburgh was two years into his reign as Scotland manager while the Scottish XI that day contained Graeme Sharp of Everton and Mo Johnston up front along with the solid Aberdeen defensive partnership of Miller and McLeish with Jim Leighton in goal.
All will have erased this horror show from collective memory.
|Scotland had three 0-0 draws in qualifying, including v Ireland away|
5. Israel 1-1 Scotland (2021)
This game was the seventh between the nations in four years and for many Scots maybe even more embarrassing than the defeat recently in Tel-Aviv, because we thought we were over struggling against Israel in recent times.
Five Premier League players in the visiting line up, including man of the moment Che Adams, but still Scotland were found wanting!
Scotland needed three points after their opening Qatar 2022 qualifying match v Austria in Glasgow (2-2), but what a disappointing night it was in qualifier 2 that cast doubt over the Scots ability to make their mark at the delayed 2020 Euros.
Steve Clarke will surely struggle to hold onto Tartan Army good will if there is a repeat of this toothless performance on Wednesday night at Hampden.
It only proves that every Scottish international side since Argentina has had to suffer the burden of abject failure against low ranked nations and we seem to have not learned our lesson.
Is it an inferiority complex? or do we see a bit of ourselves when we come up against the underdog? ... because Scotland have always been more comfortable as underdogs.
This coming Wednesday evening (31st March 2021) in Glasgow can't be added to the above list, can it?
|Despite the addition of Che Adams, the Scots could only draw 1-1|
And one time we got it right... Scotland 8-0 Cyprus (1969)
Four goals for Colin Stein at Hampden and an aggregate against the Cypriots of 13-0 in World Cup 1970 qualifying but we were pipped to the Mexico finals by the then-West Germany after losing 3-2. The eventually ten Scots on the park (Tommy Gemmell sent off) in the final qualifying group game at the home of a side that would reach the semi-finals in Mexico, and beat World Champions England in the quarter-finals 3-2 after being 2-0 down.
|Scotland enjoyed a thumping 8-0 win over Cyprus in 1969|
By Alex Horsburgh, for The Football History Boys. Check him out on Twitter: @AlexHTheMAX and @TFHBs.
©The Football History Boys, 2021
(All pictures are borrowed and not owned by The Football History Boys)