Scotland finally ended their 23-year wait for a major tournament with a dramatic 5-4 win on penalties against Serbia.
When Luka Jovic’s header beat the despairing dive of David Marshall to bring Serbia level in the final minute of normal time, it felt fatal.
After all, for the past 23 years, Scotland’s international side and heartbreak have been synonymous.
Having dominated against an experienced Serbia side, the Scots clung on in extra time as fatigue and exhaustion set in. Where their predecessors were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the occasion, Steve Clarke’s men pressed on with the task at hand, possessing belief by the bucketload.
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David Marshall the Penalty Hero
Amidst all the drama on what was a historic night for Scottish football, it was the players themselves who remained collectively calm throughout. Under a barrage of Serbian pressure in extra time, they held firm, determined not to fall at the final hurdle.
After five successful penalties were dispatched by his team-mates, Marshall wrote himself into the record books, springing to save Aleksander Mitrovic’s spot-kick and send Scotland to the promised land.
18 months ago, the humiliating 3-0 defeat to minnows Kazakhstan killed any optimism the Tartan Army had over their team’s future.
Fast-forward to the present and, under Clarke, Scotland are a side who will be anything but a pushover at Euro 2020.
Led by Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson, this is one of the most talented group of players Scotland have ever had. With Premier League regulars Kieran Tierney, John McGinn and Scott McTominay and Thursday’s goalscorer Ryan Christie, this is a squad that looks capable of being extremely competitive at next’s summer delayed European Championships.
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As if qualification for the Euro 2021 was not monumental enough, Scotland have been drawn alongside England. The two teams will face each other in Group D on Friday, 18 June at Wembley.
Scotland face a tricky test if they are to get out of their group. World Cup runners-up Croatia and Euro ’96 finalists Czech Republic stand between the Scots and a first knockout stage appearance at a major tournament.
However, as they showed against a Serbia team containing a number of seasoned players, the underdog’s tag will not deter this Scotland team from the possibility of greatness. Ending a 23-year hoodoo full of hurt already makes this the most heralded group of Scottish players for a generation but, given their skipper has won the Champions League and Premier League in successive seasons, Robertson will have his eyes firmly set on achieving more at international level.
Clarke Must Fix Finishing Issues if His Side Are to Reach Knockout Stages
If they are to be more than also-rans at Euro 2021, Clarke and his staff must address Scotland’s problems in front of goal. Prior to the game against Serbia, Scotland had managed just two shots on target in each of their last three competitive international matches, according to Opta.
Scotland failed to score in their play-off semi-final win against Israel, whilst netting just 16 times in 10 qualifying matches in a group that included Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino.
A promising aspect of Scotland’s playoff run was that, after winning both games on penalties, they have players who will not shy away from taking spot-kicks should they be required to decide a match in the knockout stages.
The Tartan Army will be hoping that Scotland do not need such a scenario at any point during the tournament after the emotional torture they went through during the game in Belgrade.
Following such a long absence, Scotland and their supporters will be glad to be back on the big stage when they host the Czech Republic in Glasgow on Monday, 14 June.
After almost a quarter of a century, the stage is set for Scotland’s return.
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