By Stephen Coutts
SF: ”Yeah, I can’t wait to watch Scotland v Georgia at Hampden tonight – I’m really buzzing for it!”
RM: ”Scotland v Georgia…? at Hampden…?”
SF: ”Yeah, man, it’s a massive game for us, I really feel we can win this one and open up the group!”
RM: ”Well, you better start walking on as it’s ten to five, it’s a 5pm kick-off AND the match is at Ibrox!”
Overheard conversation between a Scotland fan (SF) and a random member (RM) of the public, Glasgow city centre, Saturday 11 October 2014 at 16.50pm.
There was a time that supporting the Scotland national football team through thick and thin was as unfashionable as Crocs and as appealing as an STD.
Now in Gordon Strachan’s tenure, he has given the side a bit of swagger and gallousness which demands that they go out and play football with the desire to get a result.
As Gordon says: ‘It’s only 11 players v 11 players on a football field.”
Gone is the 6-4-0 away from home and in comes the cavalier 4-2-3-1 used v Germany and the swashbuckling 4-2-2-2 brought into play v Poland.
It has brought the best out of Steven Naismith and Ikechi Anya seems to improve with each cap, but what the results and flair has brought back to the national side is the fans.
Despite the Scottish Football Association upping the price of briefs, pubs and clubs appeared to be teeming with Scotland fans, young, old, female, male, returning Tartan Army footsoldiers, you name it, they were cheering on Gordon’s boys in dark blue.
It was good to see the national team so heavily supported again with the belief that the France 2016 Euros could be a return to the big time.
And it would be poignant as Scotland’s last foray into a major tournament was France ’98, and being a person of a certain age, I can remember that World Cup Finals Group A very well.
Brazil opened the competition and matchday one against Scotland and within five minutes César Sampaio had put A Seleção ahead and a nation started to weep slowly into its Tennent’s.
But lo and behold Scotland’s saviour arrived in the form of John Collins who calmly levelled from the spot on 38 minutes.
Scotland held firm with Colin Hendry and Colin Calderwood swatting away anything that came their way and the midfield buzzed as they stifled Brazil.
And in typical Scotland fashion they blew it with 17 minutes left on the clock.
Cafu latched onto a ball into the box and forced a save from Jim Leighton who pushed clear and it hit the poor onrushing Tom Boyd to deflect it into the net.
Full time from the Stade de France: Brazil…2 v Scotland…1
Scotland’s only goal of this particular campaign came in the second match as Håvard Flo put Norway ahead right after the break – but Craig Burley levelled on 66 minutes and celebrated by boxing with a corner flag.
Full time from the Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas : Scotland…1 v Norway…1
Last match of the group was against unfancied Morocco and it was Scotland’s last hope of grabbing second place.
Depending on other results. As usual. See Euro 96 for further reading.
That game saw Deportivo La Coruña’s Mustapha Hadji run the show as Salaheddine Bassir bagged a brace with Abdeljalil Hadda netting in between his double.
Scotland were outclassed, outmatched, outran and out of the World Cup, even if they had won, Norway beat Brazil, who topped the group, 2-1 to cement second place in Group A.
Full time from the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard: Scotland…0 v Morocco…3
But back to 2014, 16 years after that fateful summer and Strachan has got the hopes of a nation going again.
It’s probably the squad best equipped to get to France, young and hungry and that bullishness which signals intent.
And the Scotland squad touring the nation until Hampden is back to normal is a good thing, but the SFA need to do something about the ticket prices.
The prices for briefs for the visit of Georgia started at £40, and there are rumours of £65 for the England friendly, and £60 upwards for World Champions Germany.
That’s English Premiership prices for Class, A, B and C games, respectively, no wonder Ibrox was well shy of full capacity.
Anyway, we won’t have to wait too long for more international action as Scotland host Eire at Parkhead on 14 November, and it could prove pivotal in a delicately balanced Group D.
[Stephen Coutts is a footballer and sportswriter based in Glasgow, Scotland. His blog, The Dirty Tackle, is a wonderful supporter of Oceania football and well worth checking out! He’s a Laziale but we try not to hold that against him…]
Categories: Other Football Topics
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.