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1967: Russian Reality Check at Hampden

With all that's going on in the world right now these recent days have had a bit of a Back to the Future vibe about them as Russia has dominated the headlines. Scotland took on the old Soviet Union for the first time in an international football match 50 years after the Russian Revolution.

Official programme for Scotland v USSR in 1967

@AlexHTheMAX looks back at a fixture that intrigued the Scottish public at the time as the Tartan Army were still basking in, arguably, their side's best win of the decade. The decade that gave us The Beatles, James Bond on film, Coronation Street on tv and, more seriously, the escalation of the Cold War.

Scotland declared themselves unofficial World Champions on April 15th 1967 when they became the first nation to beat England following the Three Lions 1966 World Cup triumph. The fact that the 2-3 victory came at Wembley Stadium in a Home Internationals fixture, which also doubled as a European Championship (1968) Qualifier, only added to the delight of the Tartan Army. However four weeks later, in their next match, Scotland would be brought back down to earth as they played their first ever international fixture against the USSR.

The Soviets had ended up 4th at the World Cup in England a year earlier, after losing to West Germany in the semi finals, then in the 3rd place play-off versus Portugal. They would actually have been in the same First Round group as Scotland had the Italians not pipped the Scots to a qualifying place for the '66 tournament, despite the Azzurri losing at Hampden 1-0, thanks to a John Greig goal (Italy won their home qualifier v Scotland 3-0).

Jim Baxter - Scotland keeper that day

Scotland's football crazy community embraced (now former) eastern bloc opponents for 30 years after WW2 in genuine wonderment with Hungary providing the opposition for the first live televised international match from Hampden in 1954 and Czechoslovakia catching the imagination, after knocking Scotland out in a play off for qualification for the 1962 World Cup in Chile, with the Czech and Slovak combined team of the day ending up as beaten finalists against Brazil in Santiago.

Dynamo Moscow had faced Rangers at Ibrox in 1945 in a glamour friendly shortly after WW2 hostilities had ceased. Gers manager Bill Struth persuaded the Muscavites to come north on a British tour that had originally only included matches in London and Cardiff.

Scotland's left-leaning politics of the day also saw some sympathies with the concept of "international socialism" and there would certainly have been people from West Central Scotland, and other areas of the Scottish central belt, at Hampden on 10th May 1967 who would've had quiet admiration for the USSR.

Rightly or wrongly this was a fact of Scottish working-class life back in the 1960s with the modern trade union movement emerging north of the border. 

Gagarin Way, Lumphinnans, Fife - Named after Soviet space hero Yuri Gagarin

Scotland would face this "Challenge Match" against the Soviets minus Rangers players as the Ibrox side had gone on a summer tour of Canada.

This meant six Celtic players in the starting eleven, with a seventh used as a sub. All this just 15 days before the Bhoys greatest ever triumph in the 1967 European Cup final against Inter Milan in neutral Lisbon.

Scotland were in all white for the match (for the benefit of black and white tv coverage) while the Soviets wore their famous red shirts emblazoned with CCCP. Legendary Russian goalie Lev Yashin was resplendent in an all black kit which later caught on with goalkeepers in the British game in the late 60s and 70s.

The lineups that day in 1967

Maybe it was their England look for the day that bamboozled Scotland as they were a goal down in six minutes. A Russian through ball was inexplicably lifted over Celtic goalie Ronnie Simpson by his club and country team mate Tomny Gemmell for an embarrassing OG.

Far from carrying on from where they left off against England at Wembley, the Scots seemed to have their mind elsewhere. Certainly the Celtic contingent would not have wanted an injury before the European Cup final, so it was maybe no surprise when a second Soviet goal went in just before half time. At least that one was all their own work culminating in a spectacular finish in Simpson's top right hand corner, so HT Scotland 0 USSR 2. (Gemmell OG, Medved)


(Check out some rare footage of the goals from Scotland v USSR in 1967)

If truth be told the second half was an exhibition of USSR footballing superiority as Scotland switched off and Yashin was seldom troubled the way Gordon Banks had been at Wembley by the Scots a month earlier.

Denis Law was substituted and young Jim McCalliog couldn't recapture his Wembley form where he scored one of the goals v the World Champions.

It was a less than auspicious start for Scotland in their international matches with USSR and Russia, but there was to be some more familiar Scottish grit five years at club level when Rangers claimed the 1972 Cup Winners Cup in Barcelona. The 3-2 victory over Moscow Dynamo is a match that is sure to feature near the top of the Gers 150th anniversary celebrations this year.

In 1968 the Russians at international level would claim fourth place at the Euros (more scaled down back then with just a semi-final and a final). This was after England beat them 2-0 in the 3rd place play-off in Italy as the hosts beat Yugoslavia in the final.

Scotland team v USSR in 1967:
Ronnie Simpson (Celtic), Eddie McCreadie (Chelsea),Tommy Gemmell (Celtic), John Clark (Celtic), Billy McNeill (Celtic), Jim Baxter (Sunderland), Jimmy Johnstone (Celtic), Frank McLintock (Arsenal), Jim McCalliog (Sheffield Wednesday), Denis Law (Manchester Utd), Bobby Lennox (Celtic).

Sub used: Willie Wallace of Celtic for Law.

Attendance: 53,497.

Other matches Scotland v USSR/Russia since 1967:
  • USSR 1-0 Scotland (Friendly), 1971
  • USSR 2-2 Scotland (World Cup Spain), 1982
  • CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) 0-3 Scotland (Euro 92), 1992
(Following dissolution of USSR in 1991):
  • Scotland 1-1 Russia (Euro 96 qualifying),1994
  • Russia 0-0 Scotland (Euro 96 qualifying), 1995
  • Scotland 1-2 Russia (Euro 2020 qualifying), 2019
  • Russia 4-0 Scotland (Euro 2020 qualifying), 2019

Programme for USSR's (CCCP) 1-0 victory over Scotland in 1971


By Alex Horsburgh, written for @TFHB.

©The Football History Boys, 2022
(All pictures borrowed and not owned in any form by TFHB)

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