Serbia Win Is the Turning Point Scottish Football Has Been Waiting For

Pandemonium in Belgrade as Scotland did the thing that Scotland never do | Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

22 years. 22 arduous, exhausting years. But it was worth the wait.

When David Marshall got his left hand to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty on Thursday night, the nation of Scotland had no idea what to do with itself. Shirts were removed, household appliances were smashed, children were woken from their sleep by screaming dads whose dreams had just come true.

We don’t know if you’ve heard, but Thursday night was a bit special.

While there weren’t #scenes in the stands, there certainly were in living rooms around Scotland.

Unless you’re the fella in the last clip… ?#NoScotlandNoParty

— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) November 14, 2020

Ryan Christie put it best in a heartfelt interview that won over the country in an instant: “We’ve been through it so many years. We know it, you know it, everyone knows it. It’s a monkey off the back now. We’re going to move on from here.”

And then the really relatable bit as he burst into tears: “Oh man, I’m gone.”

There was something in the Scotland performance in Belgrade that we haven’t seen for a long, long time. A confidence, a sense of control, a ‘no, this is our time’ mentality that had us all convinced the wait was ending from the moment Christie’s beautiful reversed finish trickled in off the far post. Luka Jovic’s late header, then, had it proved costly, would have taken the suffering to a whole new level.

Steve Clarke’s team weren’t being denied this time, however. Leigh Griffiths, lambasted for his form and commitment at club level. Scott McTominay, who made the error that led to the heartbreaking equaliser. Oliver McBurnie, universally unpopular among the Tartan Army. All three had their reasons to hide away when the penalty shootout came around, yet in a Herculean show of character, each stepped up to bury one.

This is not a great Scotland team, but somewhere along the line they have developed a mentality of f******g giants, and that has turned a country that last year lost 3-0 to Kazakhstan into one well deserving of its spot at Euro 2020.

? Saturday night and I like the way you move…?


— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) November 14, 2020

Serbia, granted, might disagree on the former point. Having blown away the imperious Norway to book their place in the playoff final, they might have expected something of a procession, but they were met with a tactical plan that bewildered them. Clarke’s 5-3-2 had been a real source of frustration previously, yet here it was majestic.

From Declan Gallagher, who made Aleksandar Mitrovic look like just another SPFL striker, to Lyndon Dykes, who gave Serbia’s central defenders a fight they will lose sleep over for weeks, everyone knew their role and executed it masterfully. The ‘front five’ as it were; Christie and Dykes leading the line, supported by John McGinn with Callum McGregor and Ryan Jack following in behind; hunted the ball down as a unit, and a back five, which featured four capable ball-players, provided the cavalry where it was needed.

WHAT. A. NIGHT!! Thanks so much for your messages. An absolute privilege to be part of a brilliant team in front of and behind the cameras. The emotion is real, it’s been a long time, now bring on the Euro’s!!! (I think the pic maybe sums it up….) @ScotlandNT @ScotlandSky ????????

— Eilidh Barbour (@EilidhBarbour) November 13, 2020

The penalty shootout dramatics skewed what was as rounded and dominant a performance as you will see in an away international…but we wouldn’t be Scotland unless we took the long way round.

David Marshall, the 35-year-old keeper who has managed just 40 caps despite his Scotland career spanning longer than any other player in history, was the hero. Just like he was against Israel. Yet the players in front of him have now scored ten from ten in penalty shootouts to reach the finals. Spoiler: that’s not a coincidence.

Another view of a historic moment.

What a couple of days.

Let’s keep it going.#NoScotlandNoParty

— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) November 14, 2020

On paper, England, Croatia and the Czech Republic have been drawn against a team ranked 45th in the FIFA rankings, littered with SPFL superstars and led by a former West Brom manager. They won’t exactly be quaking in their boots at the prospect.

Perhaps it’s just the euphoria still running through the veins after three days on cloud nine, then, but there is a sense the sky is the limit for this Scotland team. Freed from the burden that has weighed them down for the past two decades, Clarke’s team have a tactical plan and a winning mentality, and on Thursday’s evidence, you would back them to hang in a game with anyone.


— United Zone (@ManUnitedZone_) November 12, 2020

At a major tournament for the first time in 22 years, Scotland will be looking to smash yet another glass ceiling, turn over England at Wembley, and advance to the knockout stages for the first time ever. We’ll be running on adrenaline with it all to gain, and absolutely nothing to lose. So go on, tell us we can’t.

Scotland are coming to the party. And what a party it’s going to be.

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