Tartan Army will never forget Germany party despite the inevitable heartache

Scotland fans received widespread praise for the noise and passion they brought to Euro 2024 - but their support wasn't rewarded on the pitch.

The Tartan Army travelled to Germany in scarcely believable numbers.

From Munich to Cologne to Stuttgart – and virtually every German town, village and campsite in between – Scotland fans brought a riot of colour and noise that captured the hearts of the host nation.

This was a party like never before, fuelled with the usual heady mix of hope, expectation and belief that Steve Clarke’s side could achieve something historic – qualifying for the knock-out rounds of a major tournament.

In the end, it was all so familiar. The crushing disappointment of conceding a 100th minute goal to Hungary condemning Scotland to bottom spot in the group and a ticket on the first flight home.

We’ve been here so many times before. More often in recent history the cruel blow has come in the actual qualifying campaign (Italy in 2007, Czech Republic in 2011, Poland in 2015 and Slovenia in 2017).

But after a 23-year exile, Scotland have now taken to the stage at the last two European Championships. That is no mean feat but the harsh reality is that on both occasions we simply haven’t performed.

Across both the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and at Euro 2024, Scotland failed to win a single game. We only scored three goals across both tournaments.

In Germany, we scarcely managed a shot on goal.

The raucous, vocal Tartan Army simply deserved better.

Scotland fans in Munich's Allianz Arena at Euro 2024.Getty Images

Opening Euro 2024 against the hosts Germany in Munich was always going to be tough ask. There was the usual hope that something special could happen, tempered with the knowledge that in all reality Scotland would make a losing start.

However, it was the manner of that defeat that rankled. On the biggest stage of them all, with the eyes of the football world watching, Scotland simply didn’t turn up.

They were annihilated that night – 5-1 going on 10-1.

Just hours earlier, there were joyous scenes in the city’s Marienplatz and various beer halls. We had ‘super John McGinn’; the Germans simply just didn’t understand.

The Tartan Army posed for photographs with bemused locals and tourists, as a sense of anticipation crackled through the warm Bavarian air.

Scotland fans put on a show but the national team didn’t do likewise.

Following that crushing opening defeat, the show moved onto the Cologne in North Rhine Westphalia. From the land of the stein to the land of the tiny beer, or Kölsch.

Regardless of the size of the drinking vessel, the beer flowed. By the time matchday two came round, the lasting mental scar of defeat to Germany had dulled slightly.

A victory over the Swiss would put things right. Scottish fans took over the steps in front of Cologne’s imposing gothic cathedral, the sound of bagpipes providing the soundtrack to fans milling around the city with large crates of beer.

Scotland fans are standing in front of Cologne Cathedral during the Scotland vs Switzerland match at UEFA Euro 2024 in Cologne, Germany, on June 19, 2024. (Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images)Getty Images

Cologne was a home-from-home for the Scots. The anthem of FC Köln shares the same melody as Runrig’s Loch Lomond and the city’s mayor Henriette Reker praised the behaviour of the Tartan Army.

The fan march to the RheinEnergie Stadion will live long in the memory of those who took part. Pipers leading the way as thousands of Scotland fans snaked their way along residential streets towards the stadium.

The unanimous mood was that Scotland simply owed the fans a performance after the opening day debacle.

And Clarke’s side did turn up against the Swiss. They took the lead via Scott McTominay’s heavily deflected effort, albeit a lead that lasted for only 13 minutes after Xherdan Shaqiri took full advantage of Anthony Ralston’s slack backpass.

A topsy-turvy, entertaining affair ensued. It was a game Scotland could well have lost if it wasn’t for the Swiss’ profligacy and two disallowed goals. However, Clarke’s side could also have snatched it near the end, with Grant Hanley’s header coming back off the post.

A draw was the final outcome and it was a performance that buoyed the Tartan Army. We had taken it to the last game – a win over Hungary would see us through.

Onwards to Stuttgart, the capital of southwest Germany’s Baden-Württemberg and a city where car manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have their headquarters.

But Scotland’s performance MHPArena hardly got off to a racing start.

There was plenty of possession in the early stages of Sunday night’s do-or-die clash but a distinct lack of cutting edge.

Scotland knocked the ball about but had no ideas about how to break down a Hungary side content to sit back and break when the opportunity arose.

STUTTGART, GERMANY - JUNE 23: A general view of dejected fans of Scotland during the UEFA EURO 2024 group stage match between Scotland and Hungary at Stuttgart Arena on June 23, 2024 in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Carl Recine/Getty Images)Getty Images

The massed Tartan Army behind the goal made their presence felt as usual with numerous stirring renditions of “Flower of Scotland”.

But goalscoring chances remained at a premium until a frantic finale.

Scotland had a very strong shout for a penalty when Stuart Armstrong appeared to be bundled over in the box while through on goal. The referee thought otherwise and VAR didn’t intervene.

And then the unthinkable happened.

Hanley had a shot saved as Scotland searched for the all important winner. Just moments later, the Hungarians raced up the pitch to score in the 100th minute of the match – a killer blow from which there was no time to recover.

There has been many a cruel ending over the years but this one will rightly take its place in the heartbreak hall of fame.

Scotland deserve to be coming home after the group stage, they haven’t shown enough quality to reach the knockout stages.

On the other hand, the Tartan Army and their vociferous backing deserve to be continuing their journey – having arrived by planes, trains and campervans in their hundreds of thousands.

They didn’t get the performances they wanted, but their adventures in Germany will live long in the memory.

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