It has been 22 years since Scotland last appeared at a major tournament, going out in the group stages on World Cup 98 after a humiliating defeat at the hands of Morocco. Since then, six different managers have tried to qualify for 10 major tournaments, without success.
They even went into the tie with Serbia as underdogs as their opponents have been at three of the last four World Cup finals. Leading until the 90th minute, Scotland looked likely to break the heartache, only for a last-minute equalizer to seemingly shatter their dreams.
They held firm through extra time and finally won in the penalty shoot-out, 5-4. That has ensured them their place at the Euro 2020 tournament, which will now be held in 2021 across several different European countries. Euro 2020 was scheduled to take place this summer but as Bwin explain, it was lost along with a host of other sporting events as restrictions were placed on travel and large gatherings. The hopes are that restrictions will now be lifted to allow fans to attend, especially as Scotland have been drawn in a group with their old enemy, England. The two first met in 1872 in the first-ever international game, but have only met once in a major tournament since 1996.
The question now for Scotland, is what happens next? Manager Steve Clarke will surely be immortalized for his role in pushing them to the finals next year, and with a squad packed with promising young players, there must be a strong hope they can kick on and once again become a regular fixture on the international scene. Indeed, between 1974 and 1998 they only failed to qualify for a single tournament – that being the one held here in the United States in 1994 – a tournament England also missed out on.
The qualification will give the Scottish FA plenty to focus on and work with, as does the presence of captain Andy Robertson, the Champions League-winning left-back from Liverpool’s dominant team of the last couple of years. Ties between Liverpool and Scotland have helped both to success over the years, with names such as Dalglish and Hansen classed as legends at Anfield and Hampden Park. Robertson is the only Scot at Anfield now, but he is joined in the international ranks by Manchester United’s promising midfielder Scott McTominay and Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney.
The rivalry between Celtic and Rangers is well-known and has been thought to disrupt international camps at times, but there was little chance of domestic disagreements derailing last night’s result; only three of the starting XI appear for the Old Firm. In fact, Motherwell provided more starters than Celtic, who have won nine consecutive domestic titles. By having a pool of players that is wider than the big two, Scotland appears to have found some domestic harmony.
There is also hope that a new talisman can be found upfront. Lyndon Dykes spent much of his youth in Australia but has already bagged goals for Queens Park Rangers in the Championship. He is one player the Scots will look to turn to for inspiration next summer, and if Lawrence Shankland continues his domestic form, he will surely be in the reckoning too. Shankland is something of a phenomenon, hitting 92 goals in 115 domestic appearances for Ayr and Dundee United, amongst others. He has just three caps, but having played all his football in Scotland but outside of Glasgow, he is a role model for up and coming young Scots everywhere.
The team now has all the ingredients for some sustained success. On the international scene, success is seen as a qualification for tournaments, and with exciting young players, and key figures established not only in their top-flight but in England too, the future is beginning to look brighter for the national team.