Since we qualified for the World Cup Finals in France in 1998, Scotland’s record in both that competition – and the European Championships – has been disappointing. To be blunt, the record since the World Cup started has been very inconsistent, good periods following fallow ones.
Like the other Home Nations, Scotland did not take part in any of the three World Cups held during the 1930s (Uruguay 1930, Italy 1934, France 1938) as all four countries were in dispute with FIFA over the status of amateur players. However, after the Second World War ended in 1945, all four nations returned to the governing body. Then Scotland did FIFA a real favour. It was an open secret that the FIFA was short of money, so the Scottish Football Association volunteered to host a match at Hampden Park between a select side from Great Britain and one representing the Rest of Europe.
This match took place on 10th May 1947; the score was 6-1 to the GB side – which contained three Scots -McCauley (Brentford), Steel (Derby County) and Liddell (Liverpool) – and most importantly, a huge crowd of 135,000 turned up not only to enjoy the occasion but put a godly amount of cash towards the world governing body.
FIFA obviously wanted to express its goodwill towards the four British nations, in recognition of its historical influence on the game and their decision to re-join the ranks. So, they decided that the Home International Championship of season 1949-50 would act as the British sides’ World Cup qualifying section. Indeed, they went further and invited the top two sides in that tournament to come to Brazil.
However, the Scottish Football Association said “thanks….but no thanks” stating that Scotland would only journey to Brazil if they won the Home International title and became British Champions!
Unfortunately, although Northern Ireland were dispatched by 8-2 and Wales by 2-0, Scotland lost to England by a single goal at Hampden, finished in second place in the table and therefore, stayed at home!
We did better in the ensuing years of the 50s to get to Switzerland in 1954 and Sweden in 1958; missed out on the next three (Chile 1962; England 1966; Mexico 1970) before embarking on a five-tournament run of successful qualifications – West Germany 1974, Argentina 1978, Spain 1982, Mexico 1986 and Italy 1990.
Unfortunately, we failed to qualify for the 1994 finals in the USA but did better in 1998, when we travelled to France 1998. Even when we did reach the finals, though, Scotland has never managed to qualify from the group stages.
In the European Championships, Scotland’s record is little better. 17 teams entered for the inaugural Championships in France in 1960 and we were not one of them ( nor were the three other home nations, Italy and West Germany), The second competition, from 1962 to 1964, saw 29 entries but Scotland again did not enter.
Once the Scottish Football Association did decide to take part, for the 1968 tournament in Italy, we missed out on qualification, repeating that feat in 1972 (Belgium), 1976 (Yugoslavia), 1980 (Italy), 1984 (France) and 1988 (West Germany).
Then success arrived, with qualification for the 1992 (Sweden) and 1996 (England) finals before the country went to record five consecutive failures – 2000 (Belgium and Holland), 2004 (Portugal), 2008 (Austria and Switzerland), 2012 (Poland and the Ukraine ) and this current one in 2016 in France.
Can we do better? Undoubtedly. How? Well, I’ll put forward some ideas next time.