From San Marino to Serbia, Scotland’s storied play-off history

Scotland have a long play-off history
Scotland have a long play-off history (PA Archive)
9:00am, Wed 11 Nov 2020
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Scotland face their date with destiny in Belgrade on Thursday night at they look to end the nation’s two-decade wait to reach a major tournament.

Serbia are the team standing in the way of Steve Clarke’s men as they look to reach Euro 2020.

Here the PA news agency takes a look back at five occasions where Scotland have come out on top in a make-or-break clash to qualify.

Scotland 2 Czechoslovakia 1, 1974 World Cup qualifier

Scotland would reach the 1974 World Cup (PA Archive)

Willie Ormond’s team got off to a nightmare start at Hampden as Zdenek Nehoda’s freak shot squirmed past Ally Hunter at the near post. But to the delight of a 100,000-strong crowd, Jim Holton nodded the hosts level at the break. Joe Jordan made himself a national hero with 15 minutes left as he flung himself at the ball to head home the winner, sealing a place in the finals in West Germany and sparking a run that would see the Scots qualify for five straight World Cups.

Wales 0 Scotland 2, 1978 World Cup qualifier

Kenny Dalglish scored at Anfield (PA Archive)

The Welsh have still not forgiven Jordan for his handy work in this clash 42 years on. With Ninian Park barred from hosting this clash after crowd trouble the previous year, the Welsh FA switched things by staging the crucial clash at Anfield. But it was the Tartan Army who flooded into Liverpool to see the Scots take the lead after French referee Robert Wurtz wrongly penalised Dave Jones for handball in the box when TV pictures showed it was Jordan who had clearly punched the ball goalwards. Don Masson coolly slotted home from the spot before Kenny Dalglish booked Scotland’s place on the plane to Argentina with the second late on.

Australia 0 Scotland 0, 1986 World Cup play-off

Jock Stein's death stunned Scottish football (PA Archive)

There was triumph and tragedy at Ninian Park on 10 September, 1985, as Davie Cooper slotted home a late equaliser from the penalty spot to secure the Scots’ place in a two-legged shoot-out with Australia for a place at the finals in Mexico. But as the Tartan Army celebrated, news filtered through that manager Jock Stein had collapsed and died from a heart attack. It was left to Alex Ferguson to pick up a bereft nation as then then Aberdeen boss took over on a caretaker basis. He oversaw a 2-0 win over in Glasgow courtesy of goals from Cooper and Frank McAvennie, with a goalless draw in the Melbourne return good enough to see Scotland through.

Scotland 5 San Marino 0, 1996 European Championships

Eoin Jess scored against San Marino (PA Archive)

Craig Brown’s team were desperate to seal an invite to the Euro 96 party being staged south of the border but thankfully there was little drama on the night as they cruised past minnows of San Marino at Hampden. Goals from Eoin Jess, Scott Booth, Ally McCoist, Pat Nevin and a late Fabio Francini OG saw the Scots finish as runners-up behind Russia, leaving the jubilant Tartan Army to sing: “Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be, We’re going to Wembley, Que sera, sera…”

Scotland 2 Latvia 0, 1998 World Cup qualifying

Gordon Durie scored against Latvia (PA Archive)

There was little room for error at Celtic Park as the Scots found themselves vying with Austria and Sweden for the two automatic spots on offer for a place at France ’98 going into the final round of fixtures. Their rivals both won but Craig Brown’s team did the business as Kevin Gallacher and Gordon Durie pounced to seal victory and the chance to kick-off the tournament in front of the watching world the against reigning champions Brazil the following summer.

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