Goals made Scotland’s 8-0 win over Cyprus tolerable

Colin Stein fires in a shot at goal during his four'goal spree against hapless Cyprus. Picture: Allan Milligan
Colin Stein fires in a shot at goal during his four'goal spree against hapless Cyprus. Picture: Allan Milligan
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John Rafferty discusses Scotland’s 8-0 win over Cyprus and Colin Stein’s four-goal tally

The Scotsman, 19 May 1969

Stein heads home with the goalkeeper stranded. Picture: Allan Milligan

Stein heads home with the goalkeeper stranded. Picture: Allan Milligan

SCOTLAND 8 CYPRUS 0

SCOTLAND’S World Cup frolic against the amateurs of Cyprus was a pleasant affair which should not be taken seriously. All that was significant about it was that is showed a new trend in the team. Usually they have played well against the best and indifferently against lesser lights. Now they do just the opposite.

On paper it would seem that Cyprus did better at Hampden than they did in Nicosia for at home they managed only one corner kick but on Saturday they had two. That, however, was explained by slack goalkeeping for Herriot gifted both corner kicks, but after criticising him it would be wise to proceed no further with individuals for it was not an occasion that called for analysing.

Of course it was good for the team to express themselves so spectacularly for they had been a bit depressed after Wembley. It did not matter that there was little opposition, for confidence can be restored by clipping golf balls off the practice ground or going to a gym and belting a punchbag around. Maybe the punchbag is the better analogy for it takes all and does not hit back.

Tommy Gemmell denies Colin Stein the chance to score a fifth goal against Cyprus as he sends a penalty kick past the goalkeeper

Tommy Gemmell denies Colin Stein the chance to score a fifth goal against Cyprus as he sends a penalty kick past the goalkeeper

The Cypriots were an astonishing team. Nobody stood out but they were instead a bunch of white-shirted anonymity who seemed to have got their directions all wrong. It became a distraction waiting for them playing the ball back towards their own goal and sometimes with about half a dozen passes they would retreat a good twenty yards.

It would all have been a bit of a bore had there not been a steady flow of goals – good and satisfying goals – to maintain the interest. Goals will make any football occasion tolerable, and that is a good line to sit and ponder over.

There was some talk that Colin Stein should have been given the penalty kick so that he equalled the record of Hughie Gallacher, who scored five goals against Ireland, but it would have been all wrong to to have set a record in such a match. Gemmell is the penalty taker and it was right that he should have taken this one. It is bad enough devaluing the World Cup with a match like this without devaluing the records.

One surprising aspect was the size of the crowd. There were just a few short of 40,000, and the SFA would perhaps like to balance that against the 7,000-odd who watched the home international against Northern Ireland recently and read something into it about the effect of television.

The eight goals did improve Scotland’s World Cup position by just a shade. They still need three points from the two away matches to force a play-off (providing the draw is in Hamburg) and now they are so well placed with goals that if there were a play-off and it was still tied after extra time then Scotland would qualify.

Now that the internationals have been completed there seems to be much despondency about Scotland’s chances of qualifying. Although that is easy to understand all is not lost yet. The biggest misfortune of Scotland is that for the only time since the last World Cup final West Germany found their best form at Hampden. Maybe they will just play their usual game in Hamburg in October.

At least Scotland then will have a fresh lively team, and one in the mood to play the cup-tie game that comes best to them.

The vital qualifying matches are in October and November, and the players should be at their best. Then they can look back on the afternoonthey scored eight goals and maybe by then the quality of the opposition will have been forgotten and they can face the Germans as Scotland’s Eight-Goal-Wonders.