Euro 2020: Why this is Scotland's biggest game in 31 years after 'cruel blow' at Italia '90

Scotland have a date with destiny – and Croatia – at Hampden Park this evening.

Scotland could have qualified from their group at Italia '90 with a win over Brazil. Picture: Simon Bruty/Allsport
Scotland could have qualified from their group at Italia '90 with a win over Brazil. Picture: Simon Bruty/Allsport

Steve Clarke's men can reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with a win. Any win. Becoming the first Scotland side to get out of the group at a tournament.

In the past, they have not done quite enough in the final group game, been undone by previous results or simply not turned up.

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Across the last 23 years there have been a number of huge games.

Whether it was England in a play-off to reach Euro 2000, the Netherlands in the play-off for Euro 2004, Italy at Hampden Park or that memorable night in Belgrade last year when the country finally reached a tournament again.

However, the game that will take place in Mount Florida tonight is the biggest in 31 years.

Some could argue that play-off win against Serbia was so big, so notable because it got the monkey off the nation’s back having failed to qualify for Euro 2000, World Cup 2002, Euro 2004, World Cup 2006, Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012, World Cup 2014, Euro 2016, World Cup 2018.

That got Scotland back to the top table. A place where they have eaten before. Reaching the knockout stages has never been achieved. History will be made with a win over Croatia.

Tournament agony

That could have happened at France 98. Scotland went into the clash with Morocco knowing a win could send them through. While the 3-0 defeat was humbling, it mattered little as Norway defeated France to progress anyway.

Rewind two years. Ally McCoist’s brilliant goal against Switzerland at Euro 96 gave Scotland the win but they still went out on goal difference due to the Netherlands scoring against England with just over ten minutes remaining.

But it was at Italia ‘90 where Scotland went into their final group match with their destiny firmly in their own hands. Win or draw and they would have progressed. Only, they were up against already-qualified Brazil.

It wasn’t the most distinguished of Brazilian sides but it did feature Romario, Careca and Dunga.

Jim Leighton had to be quick off his line to thwart Romario who burst through the Scottish defence. Up the other end, a towering header from Roy Aitken was booted off the line.

Cruel blow

However, with less than ten remaining, Alemao tried his luck from range only for Leighton to push the shot into the centre of the box where a challenge pushed the ball out to the right where Muller snuck it in at the back post.

Scotland could have got the point, which would have earned them qualification as one of the best third-place teams, late on but Mo Johnston saw an effort zip over the bar from close range.

"No one said life was fair,” then manager Andy Roxburgh said after the game. "Sometimes you have to take the blows.

"Let's be honest, we lost to a better side, Brazil have a wee bit of magic about them.

"We worked diligently throughout the game. We had to play in a very practical way. It really was a cruel blow to lose out at the death as we did.”

Scotland will be hoping their run of cruel blows and failure at the last hurdle comes to an end against Croatia.

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