How Scotland became boisterous, blagging latecomers to the big football party - Aidan Smith

Tunnock’s teacakes and Toblerone as Scotland finally arrive at Euro 2024

What, you mean we have to do it again? Actually go back for more? The classic reaction of the brand new schoolboy following his first day in lessons must have birled in the minds of more than a few Tartan Army foot-soldiers.

All that anticipation, all that tension, and then the realisation that the first game at the Euros would need to be followed by another one. But a 5-1 thumping is the equivalent of standing up in front of the whole class to say your name and end up wetting yourself. Not much opportunity thereafter to crack a funny, but plenty of scope for full-on dread.

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“Five long days since that chastening opening night,” says Gabby Yorath, beginning coverage of the do-or-most-likely-cop-our-whacks match against Switzerland. Crikey, at least watching at home on TV there’s a sofa to hide behind.

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates his opening goal against Switzerland in the 1-1 draw at Euro 2024. (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates his opening goal against Switzerland in the 1-1 draw at Euro 2024. (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates his opening goal against Switzerland in the 1-1 draw at Euro 2024. (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

But hang on, might there be hope? A favourable omen, something to provide us with a slim foothold in this Matterhorn of a challenge? And, yes, that could be it! For hasn’t the famed Toblerone had the 14,692ft peak removed from its packaging to acknowledge production has moved out of Switzerland?

And didn’t Tunnock’s, only the other day, proudly and defiantly declare that, unlike just about every other chocolate-based product on the market, their equally legendary teacakes would never be reduced in size?

What, you think that’s contrived, tenuous and desperate? This is Scotland we’re talking about …

Transmission has moved from ITV to BBC, currently reeling from the “Shacketgate” controversy. Under Corporation rules, Gary Lineker is not permitted to wear a shirt-jacket amalgam from his own label, or indeed any piece of clobber. As it happens, shackets would be of far less concern to Scots than Xhakas, specifically Granit Xhaka and the influence the Swiss playmaker could bring to bear on the match.

Scotland fans react as they watch the 1-1 draw with Switzerland on giant screens at the Glasgow Fan Zone. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Scotland fans react as they watch the 1-1 draw with Switzerland on giant screens at the Glasgow Fan Zone. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Scotland fans react as they watch the 1-1 draw with Switzerland on giant screens at the Glasgow Fan Zone. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

“He’s incredible, terrific on the ball,” confirms pundit David Moyes. Chucking teacakes at Xhaka, even ones which haven’t been shrunk, is not a strategy. You might, though, want to fling some in the direction of Lineker for his teasing and tee-heeing during the preceding Germany-Hungary game over us not mustering a single shot on target in that horrible curtain-raiser. Well, that could all be forgotten if we could shackle Xhaka and topple the Toblerone.

“And a brilliant start!” blurts match summariser Neil McCann. Not a goal but a corner, our first of the tournament. The commentator - for those watching in Scotland and who love a tsunami of factoids - is loquacious Liam McLeod.

The cameras swoop over the tartan hordes. Everyone out in Deutschland looks like they’re still having fun, but for us at home the days since Munich have been tough. In the opening credits for the Euros broadcasts, John McGinn has been unchanged: still grinning, still walloping the ball a prodigious distance. On big billboards Scott McTominay has continued to look confident and ready. But could these two - and everyone else - be more like their old selves on the pitch where it really matters?

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McGinn’s backside contrives a free-kick but McTominay with a telescopic leg can’t quite reach Che Adams so the lone striker’s wait goes on. Never mind a goal, a pass would be nice. But then, a lightning break … Billy Gilmour to the horsing Andy Robertson … a sclaff from McTominay, a wonderful Swiss deflection, and don’t you just love an OG? The fellow shoogling his moobs in celebration certainly does.

In their previous game against Hungary, Swiss fans produced the early frontrunner for the Euros’ top banner - “Fondue better than goulash.” Maybe somewhere in the stadium there is “Haggis trumps fondue”, though not yet it doesn’t, because Shaqiri equalises sumptuously. Scotland’s appeal on the grounds “u” doesn’t follow “q” in the veteran forward’s name is rejected.

The Swiss are on a roll, to the consternation of our men with the mics. “Four points will take them through,” says McLeod. “No need for the half-press,” adds an alarmed McCann.

Now I’m alarmed. McCann early in the second half praises Germany’s organisation of the tournament. That’s polite, but is this because he suspects we’re soon to bid it farewell? Then McLeod laments our injury toll, Kieran Tierney being stretched off. The Tartan Army, though, refuse to feel sorry for themselves and sense this is exactly the right moment to do their utmost to lift the team. “Flower of Scotland” is followed by “We’ll Be Coming Down the Road” and a diving header from Grant Hanley crashes off a post.

The stories of the Euros so far have been other countries, their exciting talents and their stonking strikes. But with this stirring performance - all its aggression and passion exemplified by Gilmour and McGinn and McTominay refusing to allow Xhaka the run of the game with Swiss timepiece precision - we’re now boisterous, blagging latecomers to the big football party.

McTominay threatens to grab a winner in this crash-bang-wallop contest but is blocked. By way of consolation McLeod relays the information that while the unfortunate Fabian Schar was originally credited with it, our goal can be added to his formidable tally.

Can we find another one? Despite substitute Scott McKenna showing up as a right winger, and despite an eloquent Joe Hart among the pundits urging on the team as an honorary Scot, not quite. But, as McLeod puts it on the final whistle, “Scotland are in the tournament now”.

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