Scotland One Step From The Euros And A Clash With England As They Face Serbia In Play Off Showdown
Tonight is arguably the biggest night in Scottish Football history for over 20 years as they look to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the 1999 World Cup.
The 1990’s were somewhat of a golden era for the Scots as they qualified for two out of the three World Cups of that decade (1990 and 1998) as well as both European Championship tournaments of the decade in 1992 and 1996.Embed from Getty Images
Despite qualifying for these tournaments, they have never in their history progressed past the Group Stage at a major tournament, a stat that still haunts fans and players alike to this day.
Since a particularly underwhelming if not brave showing at the 1998 World Cup in France, it’s been a story of disappointment and misery with their subsequent qualifying campaigns with some close calls but ultimately defeats to the likes of Macedonia and Kazakhstan have cost them dearly.Embed from Getty Images
However, Scotland did manage to give themselves this shortcut to the Euros via winning a less than threatening Nations League C group consisting of only Albania and Israel. Ironically, it was Israel who the Scots faced in the Semi Final of these Euro 2020 Play Offs, scraping through via a penalty shootout following a cagey 0-0 draw.
As for Serbia, they will be looking to break what is seen to be an anomaly in the world of international football. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia, they have reached three world cups (One as Serbia & Montenegro in 2006 and two as Serbia in 2010 and 2018). Bizarrely, Serbia have never qualified for the European Championships since their last major tournament as a part of Yugoslavia at Euro 2000.
The Serbian national side has been disappointing since the World Cup, currently sitting bottom of their Nations League League B group with just 2 points. So far in their campaign, they have suffered two defeats at the hands of Russia and Hungary whilst they have drawn twice to Turkey. This means it will be all the more tough for Serbia to qualify for the World Cup in 2022, making qualification tonight just that extra bit important.Embed from Getty Images
Scotland have been known not to travel well in the past, and they certainly head into this game the underdogs ranking 15 places lower than Serbia in the FIFA World rankings (45th). Despite this, Scotland can take some solace from the fact that they are unbeaten in internationals since a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Russia over a year ago in Euro 2020 qualifying. This includes a highly impressive Nations League campaign where Scotland top a group consisting of Czech Republic, Israel and Slovakia and are favourites to be promoted to League A.
So, in many ways, tonight could be a symbol of Scotlands success and improvement under former West Brom and Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke. Qualifying for a major tournament for the first time in 22 years as well as being promoted to the elite level of the embryonic Nations League Competition would certainly qualify as a successful start to Steve Clarke’s tenure. What is really important is that for the first time in a very, VERY long time, Scotland fans have reason to be excited, and not to be bitterly disappointed and outcasted whilst the other home nations revel in success.
Serbia– Rajkovic (GK) , Gudelj, S.Mitrovic, Milenkovic, Kostic, Lukic, Milinkovic-Savic, Maskimovic, Lazovic, Tadic (C), A.Mitrovic
Substitutes- Dmitrovic (GK), Gacinovic, Grujic, Jovic, Katai, Kolarov, Mladenovic, Radonjic, Ristic, Rockov (GK), Spajic, Vlahovic
Scotland- Marshall (GK), Robertson, Tierney, Gallagher, O’Donnell, McTominay, McGinn, Jack, McGregor, Dykes, Christie
Substitutes- Armstrong, Burke, Considine, Cooper, Gordon (GK), Griffiths, McBurnie, McKenna, McLaughlin, McLean, Palmer, Paterson
1- Kick Off in Belgrade! A chance for both teams to make history…
5- A solid start from the Scots, keeping the ball well and making attacking runs. No opportunities as of yet though, score remains 0-0.
7- Half a chance to get the shot away for Scotland as Ryan Christie delivers a teasing cross in which Lyndon Dykes failed to bring down and subsequently the ball got away from the awaiting John McGinn.
12- Scotland controlling the game against a passive Serbian side. The Scots managed to register the first shot on target with a free kick from Ryan Christie comfortably saved by Rajkovic.
17- Serbia beginning to venture forward more now after the opening 15 minutes. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was agonisingly close to threading through Dusan Tadic were it not for the excellent defensive work of Declan Gallagher.
19- The home side looking dangerous now as the wing back Lazovic worked a little give and go with Milinkovic-Savic but the pass from the Lazio star had just too much on it and the ball goes harmlessly out for a goal kick.
23- Best chance of the game so far as Dusan Tadic delivers a clever ball into Mitrovic who uses his strength to hold off Gallagher. The Fulham striker laid the ball of to Sasa Lukic who tried to pass the ball into the bottom right corner but saw his effort go wide of the target.Embed from Getty Images
28- Serbia beginning to take charge of possession now, with Scotland’s bright early spell seemingly over now.
32- CHANCE! -Scotland’s best opportunity of the game so far. Lyndon Dykes does brilliantly to draw in challenges from two of the three Serbian centre backs before playing in John McGinn. The 26 year old Aston Villa player hit a tame effort with his weaker left foot straight at Rajkovic.Embed from Getty Images
37- Serbia have managed to get themselves back on top without creating too many chances. Score remains goalless…
42- Scotland pressing Serbia into their own half now and trying to force the home side into mistakes. The back three look less than comfortable on the ball.
43- A yellow card for Declan Gallagher for climbing over his opponent in attempt to win an aerial battle. The Motherwell Centre Half will have to be careful for the remainder of this encounter.
Half Time- Serbia 0-0 Scotland– A tense first half with little to give from either side. Scotland will be pleased with the way they pressed the Serbian side.Embed from Getty Images
46- Second Half Begins…
49- Yellow Card given to Nemanja Gudelj
52- GOALLLLLL SCOTLAND- Serbia 0-1 Scotland- A potentially historic goal! The pressing from Scotland pays off as Callum McGregor cuts out a wayward pass from Gudelj and plays the ball into Ryan Christie. The Celtic player seemingly had nowhere to go but he did brilliantly to turn and manufacture a low shot which rolled off the post and into the back of the net. With around 40 minutes including stoppage time to go, can Scotland hang on?Embed from Getty Images
57- Scotland have understandably looked shaky since the goal. Perhaps it is beginning to dawn on the Scottish players how close they are to cementing their names into the history books.
62- Scotland wisely trying to break up the play and destroy the flow of Serbia’s football.
67- Scotland beginning to dominate proceedings now. Callum McGregor is allowed time and space to open up his body and unleash a wicked strike that whistles past the post.
68- Arguably Serbia’s best opportunity comes as Milenkovic heads into the side netting following a free kick floated into the 6 yard box.
71- Substitution for Serbia as Luka Jovic replaces Nemanja Maskimovic
76- Uneventful period of the game. The worry for Scotland now will be as they begin to drop deeper and deeper.
77- The pressure beginning to rise as Serbia press Scotland back into their area by delivering cross after cross.
80- Nervy moments as we enter the last 10 minutes of normal time…
83- Substitutions for Scotland- Oliver McBurnie will replace Lyndon Dykes whilst Kenny McLean will replace John McGinn.
85- HUGE CHANCE- Wonderful one two between Jovic and Katai allowing Jovic to deliver an exquisite cross which was met by the head of Mladenovic. Luckily for Scotland the headed effort flashed wide of the post.
87- Another change for Scotland as Callum Patterson replaces goalscorer Ryan Christie.
90- HEARTBREAK FOR SCOTLAND- Serbia 1-1 Scotland- The simplest of goals as Mladenovic delivers a good corner but Luka Jovic is criminally unmarked in the box. The Real Madrid player broke Scottish Braveheart’s as he heads the ball into the ground and into the top corner, agonisingly out of the reach of David Marshall.Embed from Getty Images
Full Time- Serbia 1-1 Scotland– Late, LATE drama in Belgrade as Serbia knock the stuffing out of an excellent Scotland performance. The game could have so easily been put out of reach but its a similar story again with a late equaliser conceded. Extra Time beckons…
90- Extra Time 1st Half begins…
92- Stephen O’Donnell testing the Serbian keeper early into extra time with a swinging half volley. Rajkovic did well to tip it over the bar.
97- Serbia really starting to pin in the Scots now. Nervy Moments indeed…
102- It’s safe to say Scotland do not have a lot left in the tank. They really are holding on now. Aleksandre Katai provided the next moment for the home team as he drills a shot a yard wide of the post from the edge of the area.
Extra Time Half Time- Serbia 1-1 Scotland
105- This is it. Do or Die for Scotland. The Second and final period of extra time begin. Penalties await if the scores remain the same.
108- Another change for the home side as Uros Spajic replaces Stefan Mitrovic.
113- Scotland looking the more likely for the first time since the goal. Dominating possession and putting pressure on the home side without clearcut opportunities.
115- The Serbian substitute Katai drives a shot into the midriff of David Marshall.
117- Substitution for Scotland perhaps with Penalties in mind-Stephen O’Donnell is replaced by Leigh Griffiths, who makes his first Scotland appearance for two years.
120- Squeaky Bum Time for Scotland! A minute of added time and its a Serbian corner from the same side they conceded the equaliser from.
Extra Time Full Time- Serbia 1-1 Scotland- A tense period of extra time ends all square. Scotland looked out on their feet come the end of the game. They were very much holding on to a draw for almost the entirety of extra time. All of the chances came from the home side bar one long range effort. Penalties for a place at the Euros are imminent. This is it…Embed from Getty Images
Scotland will take the first penalty…
1-0- Leigh Griffiths puts Scotland ahead with a powerful penalty that’s smashed into the top right corner.
1-1 Dusan Tadic equalises as he puts his Penalty straight down the middle and into the roof of the net with Marshall diving to his left
2-1 – Identical Penalty from Callum McGregor as his Scottish Counterpart as he smashes into the top right corner despite a slight touch from Rajkovic
2-2 – SO CLOSE TO BEING SAVED- Luka Jovic hits a below par penalty to Masrhall’s right which the Scottish shot stopper will be furious he didn’t keep out
3-2 Scott McTominay slots the ball right into the bottom left corner
3-3 – Gudelj cooly slots the ball into the bottom right corner past Marshall.
4-3 Oli McBurnie keeps his cool ands slots into the same corner.
4-4 An exhibition of penalties here as Aleksandre Katai fires the ball in off the post with ferocious power.
5-4 – Kenny McLean piles the pressure on Serbia by firing into the inside of the side netting on the left hand side of the goal.
5-4- MISSED! THATS IT! MITROVIC SEES HIS PENALTY BRILLIANTLY SAVED. HE TURNS TO THE REFEREE FOR CONFORMATION THAT IT WAS A LEGITIMATE SAVE AND HE GETS THE NOD. THE 22 YEAR LONG WAIT IS FINALLY OVER. SCOTLAND ARE GOING TO THE EUROSEmbed from Getty Images
Full Time- Serbia 1-1 Scotland AET (Scotland win 5-4 on Penalties)
A dramatic night in Belgrade which sees Scotland qualify for their first major tournament since 1998. A real symbol of how far they have come in such a short space of time, particularly under the guidance of Steve Clarke. They now have a pool of quality players to choose from, whilst maintaining their identity of being gritty, hard working, and difficult to beat.
The Scots really dominated the early proceedings of the game, with Serbia failing to register a chance for 20 minutes. As the half wore on, Serbia gradually grew into the game without creating an awful lot. At the beginning of the second half, it was Scotland who grabbed the initiative with an excellent finish from Ryan Christie. They continued to pressurise Serbia and could (and maybe should) have killed the game off long before stoppage time. Alas, a lapse in concentration in stoppage time led to an excruciating 30 minutes of extra time before an exhibition of penalties. That was, of course, until the 5th and final regulation penalty for Serbia from Aleksander Mitrovic. The Fulham star man would have probably been most Serbian’s safest bet to bury a penalty, but his effort was mediocre at best and was well saved by David Marshall. Cue the slight pause for confirmation from VAR, and then elation.
A historic win for Scotland and yet another scenario where we all ‘imagine if fans were allowed’. It truly would have been an unforgettable night for the Scottish fans who, no doubt, would have travelled in their many thousands for this fixture. However, Scotland fans will hold hope that their fans can attend two dates at Hampden Park to play both Czech Republic and Croatia, as well as one for the ages as they face the oldest of foes at Wembley Stadium…
For now though, Scotland will look towards their Nations League clash with Slovakia in Trnava this coming Sunday. A win would see them promoted to League A with a game to spare. Meanwhile, Serbia’s bid to avoid relegation back to League C continues with a trip to Budapest to face a Hungarian outfit buoyed by their play off victory and Euro qualification.