Monday, June 24, 2013

The opening match of Scotland showed ignorance and arrogance: Peru was seemingly underestimated, if researched and taken seriously at all. Neither Gemmill, nor Macari were among the starters, significantly reducing the strength of the midfield line, and, inevitably, organization of attacks. McQueen was also on the bench. Scotland scored early – Jordan in the 14th minute – which probably mislead the team that they were for easy win. The rest of the game belonged to Peru – they equalized 3 minutes before the end of the first half. In the second Scotland was completely destroyed and two more goals were scored by Cubillas. Don Masson missed a penalty. McLeod tried to turn arround the situation – Gemmill and Macari replaced Rioch and Masson in the 70th minute, right after Peru scored their second goal. It was too late – Peru was flying.
The end of the Tartan Army – Rough had no way of blocking the ball after exquisite free kick. Learning Peruvian names came too late and very painfully – Cubillas scored one more, to give Peru 3-1 victory.

After the match Johnston failed the dope test and all other problems, real and imagined, of the Scots surfaced. It was time to wake up – but they did not.

Iran was supposed to be even easier opponent than Peru – evidently, no lessons from the first match were learned. Scotland started with Gemmill and Macari this time, yet, still without McQueen, but the team displayed poor football. The Scots were unable to score at all – own goal by Eskandarian gave them the lead two minutes before halftime.
Misleading picture: Jordan beats Iranian defense. In the captured moment Iran appears entirely on its knees... but they equalized in the second half and Scotland was lucky to preserve the tie to the end. 1-1. McLeod was left with only mongrell dog for a friend. Enemies counted empty Scotch bottles and the only Scottish contribution to the finals so far was trivia: playing with a kit so dark blue, it was almost black, the referees were forced to use red kits. Back in the 1970s it was highly unusual – referees were always dressed in black.

With two disappointing games behind them, the Scots still had a chance – if they won their last match by three goals difference. Easier task, if one calculates Scottish chances compared to Iran's... but Scotland was facing Holland – the mighiest opponent in the group, which also experienced troubles so far and was not qualified yet.

Finally, Scotland decided to play at earnest. McQueen was out again, Macari was back on the bench, but McLead finally fielded Graham Souness – not the famous star as yet, but steadily improving player, who should have been a regular starter already. Since the match was life or death for both teams, the clash was great. The Dutch managed to get the lead – Rensenbrink scored a penalty in the 34th minute – but finally Scotland displayed their best and equalized a minute before halftime. Then they got an early goal in the second half – Gemmill scored a penalty in the 47th minute. Scotland slightly prevailed, driving Holland into desperate defense. The finest moment came in the 68th minute:
A fantastic slalom of Archie Gemmill, leaving Dutch bodies on the ground, and tricking even Dalglish for good measure, ending with ball in the net and triumphal rising of fist. 3-1 – with 20 minutes left, there was plenty of time for one more goal. As for this one, it remains among the best ever goals scored at World Cup finals – ranked 7th.

The Dutch, however, were not giving up – one more goal was scored, but in the wrond net. Johnny Rep scored for Holland in the 70th minute and this was the end – the result was preserved, Scotlnad won 3-2 and Holland qualified on better goal difference. The match, however, saved the Scots from disgrace – it was one of the best matches of 1978 finals. At least they finished well, but it was too late – Scotland was eliminated. To a point, the Scots were a team more deserving to reach the next round than, say, Poland or even West Germany, but they paid heavy price for neglecting opponents and had nobody but themselves to blame for the earky exit. At least Scotland left pleasant memories from their last match – and some folklore, thanks to their drinking. Ally McLeod survived the immediate inquest by Scottish football authorities, but did not last long – he resigned after the next match in 1978.

The players faired better – especially Dalglish and Souness, becoming huge stars soon after the World Cup.