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11 surprising facts about Scotland at the Euros

As Steve Clarke's side prepare for Euro 2020, we look at Scotland's history with the competition.

11 surprising facts about Scotland at the Euros SNS Group

The countdown is on to Scotland’s first game of Euro 2020 and all eyes are on Steve Clarke and his players.

The squad have their chance to write their chapter in the team’s history by going beyond the first round, but the experience won’t just be about the headline stories.

The facts, stats and trivia of the next month will become part of Scotland folklore and it may be that the quirks and oddities of the tournament last in the memory as long as the scorelines.

Here, STV looks at some of the more surprising stories of Scotland’s history with the Euros.

  1. Scotland didn’t bother to enter the first two European Championships

It looks like a blunder in hindsight, and if the Hampden officials who made the decision knew it would then take nearly 30 years of trying to qualify, and that there would be another 25-year gap between appearances, they might have acted differently.

But while USSR played their way to the first trophy, and then lost to Spain in the second final, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland sat it out, concerned that entering would interfere with their schedule of home internationals.

  1. The first time Scotland qualified, they came home with a prize
Scotland fans enjoy themselves in the sunshine of Sweden after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Germany.

It may not be the Henri Delaunay Trophy but if you have to leave the Euros early, it’s nice to have made your mark. 

The Tartan Army’s party in Sweden endeared them to the locals but also to UEFA, who awarded Scotland the Fair Play prize for best supporters.

  1. Scotland had arguably the toughest group stage draw in the history of the competition

The reward for finally reaching the Euros in 1992 was a place in Group 2. 

Their opponents? World Cup winners Germany and reigning European champions the Netherlands, along with CIS, who were the remnants of the Soviet Union side who had reached the previous final.

It’s the only time the reigning World and European champions have been drawn together in the same Euros group before 2020.

  1. Scotland are the only team to have beaten CIS in a competitive match
Scotland's team against CIS. Back row (l to r): Richard Gough, Tom Boyd, Dave McPherson, Ally McCoist, Stuart McKimmie. Front row (l to r): Paul McStay, Kevin Gallacher, Stuart McCall, Brian McClair, Andy Goram, Gary McAllister

That strangely named third team Scotland played after Germany and Netherlands in 1992 is the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The break-up of the Soviet Union came after the team had already qualified for the Euros, leaving a puzzle to be solved. The solution was for a temporary mixed team of players from the countries that were formerly the USSR to take part under a new name.

The CIS played seven friendlies in the run-up to the tournament, drew with the Germans and then the Dutch before suffering their only competitive defeat when they lost 3-0 to Scotland.

  1. International appearances determined squad numbers in 1992

Perhaps wanting to avoid arguments about who got number nine, or have players assuming they were guaranteed a starting spot because of a low number, Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh took a fresh approach to allocating squad numbers at major tournaments.

At Italia 90, with the exception of goalkeeper Jim Leighton being given the number one jersey, the squad were ranked by number of caps. The system must have kept players happy because he followed the same principle (roughly) for Euro 92.

Andy Goram was number one, his back-up Henry Smith was number 12 and the rest of the squad was pretty much ranked by caps.

This meant that the back four for the first game against Germany wore the numbers 9, 2, 8 and 4.

  1. Ally McCoist’s only goal at a major finals came in the Euros

Only four men have scored more Scotland goals than Ally McCoist. The former Rangers striker scored 19 times in 61 internationals and had a Scotland career that spanned 12 years.

Goals came in friendlies, in qualifiers, home and away and McCoist was part of the squad that went to World Cup 1990, playing in all three games. He also played three times at Euro 92 and the national team missed out on World Cup 94.

At Euro 96, McCoist was an unused sub against Netherlands, and came off the bench but failed to score against England. 

The final group game against Switzerland was to provide the forward with one of his most memorable goals.

Having built a career on being in the right place at the right time, the poacher supreme had two golden opportunities early in the game, smashing the ball off the bar from four yards out after five minutes and denied from five yards seconds later.

After 36 minutes he did it the hard way, Gary McAllister playing the ball into his path for the striker to fire high into the net from outside the box.

McCoist was to pick up seven more caps but no further goals for Scotland.

7. Mel Gibson was used for inspiration

While Baddiel and Skinner and Three Lions provided the cultural backdrop for England at Euro 96, Scotland turned its eyes to the big screen.

Mel Gibson’s William Wallace biopic Braveheart might have had dodgy accents and historical inaccuracies but nobody can deny that it was rousing and passionate. Craig Brown decided to harness that energy and arranged to take his entire Scotland squad to a special screening of the Oscar-winning movie before facing England.

Scotland defender Tom Boyd later reflected on the decision, saying: “Sadly, the outcome at Wembley was the same as it had been in the film – the Scots ended up losing. At least we weren’t hung, drawn and quartered.

“Then again, I think a few of our supporters were ready to do that to Gary McAllister after he missed the penalty…”

8. Scotland’s second fixture at Euro 96 was against England AND the paranormal

Facing an England side boasting the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer at Wembley was a big enough task but they also came up against a 12th man.

Not the home crowd but instead Israeli self-proclaimed psychic Uri Geller, who said that while flying above Wembley in a helicopter, he used psychokinesis to move the ball just before Gary McAllister struck a second-half penalty.

The mentalist’s intervention caused McAllister’s firmly struck shot to be saved by David Seaman and England went on to win 2-0.

Gary McAllister hangs his head after seeing his penalty saved by David Seaman.SNS Group

Geller claims to have received around 11,000 hate letters after the incident, some of which he described as “really rude”. He has since admitted his regret at being involved in the defeat, saying it was “highly unethical”. 

9. Every Scottish goalscorer at the Euros has been a Mc

Admittedly, it’s not a long list but every Scotland international to find the net at a European Championships has had something in common.

Paul McStay, Brian McClair, Gary McAllister and Ally McCoist have all helped Scotland to wins at the Euros, and created expectation that Scott McTominay, Callum McGregor, John McGinn, Scott McKenna and John McLaughlin will all celebrate goals this month

10. One of the Euro 92 stars was named after a Scottish legend

It stands to reason that Denis Law would have children named after him, and that any fan of the Scotland great might encourage his own kids to play the game.

So it transpired that when Scotland played Netherlands at Euro 92 there was a tribute to Law in the only goal of the game.

Unfortunately the goalscorer was the sublimely talented Dutch forward Dennis Bergkamp, who owed his extra ‘n’ to a picky Amsterdam registrar.

Dennis Bergkamp scored against Scotland at Euro 92 but failed to get the better of Andy Goram four years later.SNS Group

11. Only three players have played every Scotland game at the finals

Scotland have played six games at the Euro finals and only three men have played in all of them.

Andy Goram, Stuart McCall and Gary McAllister all started every game at Euro 92 and Euro 96.

Their run is due to come to an end this summer, barring a severe injury crisis…