Scott McTominay reveals relief after shoot-out provides a happy ending for Scots
Scott McTominay admits he was the most relieved man in Belgrade after seeing David Marshall bail out Scotland’s Euro 2020 dreams.
The Manchester United midfielder looked to have strolled through another outing as a makeshift centre-back for Steve Clarke’s team as their play-off clash against Serbia entered the final stages.
But with the Scots just 90 seconds away from qualification, McTominay switched off at a corner and allowed Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic to head home an equaliser.
That late leveller was a body blow to Scotland and left the Old Trafford ace fearing the worst.
But Clarke’s men clung on through extra time before goalkeeper Marshall made himself a national hero as he flung himself to his left to keep out Aleksandar Mitrovic’s decisive spot-kick, ending Scotland’s 22-year stint in major tournament exile.
There was even redemption in the shoot-out for McTominay himself as he was among the five outfielders to convert as Scotland maintained their perfect record from the spot since their first ever penalty contest last month against Israel.
The 23-year-old – who burst into tears after the game – told Sky Sports: “When Serbia’s goal went in, it was difficult to take with it being in the 90th minute and obviously it was (my) mistake.
“You had to have big b***s to go take a penalty but I was the most relieved man in the stadium by a long way.
“Looking back, the emotions and the game went by so fast and you don’t really have time to process all of it. But when I was able to tuck away that penalty, it was amazing.
“I don’t think you’ll find in life a much more high-pressure scenario than taking a penalty to take your country to the Euros. All the boys stepped up and did what they had to do.
All the boys stepped up and did what they had to do.
“Penalties are a difficult one. I feel for Mitrovic. I had some words to say to him at the end. He’s an amazing player and while I feel for him, I’m sure it’s a minor setback for him.
“But for us I’m just so pleased. It’s a special feeling to know we’re going to the Euros and one we’ll only be able to replicate by reaching coming tournaments. We want that feeling again and again.”
The Scots’ post-match celebrations have become a viral sensation with the Tartan Army lapping up the team’s rendition of Baccara’s ‘Yes Sir, I can Boogie’ in the dressing room.
But McTominay says that is only a small glimpse of the unity brewing in Clarke’s squad.
He said: “It’s been super-special. It feels like everyone has seen a lot of the videos of the celebrations which have been going on.
“I’m just super-proud of all the boys. Everybody’s all stuck together. Ever before the penalties were taken, everybody said ‘no matter what happens here we’re all proud of each and every one of you for the efforts we’ve put in’.
“After that we did what we had to do while was big Marshy saved the penalty. It was amazing, probably the best feeling I’ve had in football.”
Scotland can now look forward to two Hampden clashes with the Czech Republic and Croatia next summer – but the trip to Wembley to face England is already the match whetting the appetite of fans north and south of the border.
McTominay expects plenty of wisecracks from his English team-mates, including Marcus Rashford, when he returns to Old Trafford next week but there will be no backing down on his part.
“I think the banter will wait until I walk back through those doors at the training ground,” he said. “But hey, bring them on.”
Scotland now need to refocus ahead of two vital Nations League fixtures which could go a long way to securing qualification to yet another major tournament.
A win on Sunday against Slovakia or on Wednesday when they travel to face Israel will see the Scots top their B2 section and all but guarantee a play-off slot for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
McTominay added: “We have to really focus on being top of that group. We don’t want to settle for one win from this international break, we want three.”