The highs and lows of Gordon Strachan’s Scotland reign

Gordon Strachan's Scotland tenure was very much a rollercoaster of emotions... for him as well as the fans. Pictures: Getty Images
Gordon Strachan's Scotland tenure was very much a rollercoaster of emotions... for him as well as the fans. Pictures: Getty Images
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Gordon Strachan has left his role as Scotland national team boss - here we look back at the highs and lows of his tenure

Low: Defeats to Wales and Serbia

Despite a 1-0 win in his first match in charge - against Estonia in a friendly at Pittodrie - Strachan couldn’t repeat the feat in must-win World Cup 2014 qualifiers against Wales and Serbia.

Grant Hanley scored the opener on the stroke of half-time at Hampden but two goals in three minutes - an Aaron Ramsey penalty and a Hal Robson-Kanu goal - turned the tie on its head. Robert Snodgrass was sent off for a second bookable offence while Ramsey saw red for the visitors as both teams finished with ten men.

Four days later, two goals in five minutes by Filip Duricic handed Serbia a 2-0 win over Scotland in Novi Sad.

High: Away win over Croatia

Despite the defeats to Wales and Serbia, the Scots recorded a somewhat unexpected win away to Croatia, Snodgrass again involved as his 26th minute strike was the difference between the two sides. It was an impressive result over a the Croatia side containing the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic. Sadly Strachan’s men celebrated the somewhat unlikely win with back-to-back defeats to England in a friendly and Belgium in a World Cup qualifier.

High: Six-game unbeaten run

Yes, your memories are serving you correctly. After the Belgium defeat, Scotland went on a six-game unbeaten run, starting with an admittedly narrow victory away to Macedonia, an 89th minute goal from Shaun Maloney sparing our blushes.

Scotland then defeated Croatia again, this time a 2-0 victory at Hampden thanks to goals from Snodgrass and Steven Naismith. Two friendly matches in five days in November 2013 saw the Scots draw 0-0 with the United States and record a 1-0 win over Norway in Molde, Scott Brown grabbing the only goal after 61 minutes. Brown scored again as Scotland defeated Poland 1-0 in Warsaw and a creditable 2-2 draw with Nigeria at Fulham’s Craven Cottage had fans eagerly anticipating the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Low: The second half of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign

It started off so well. A narrow defeat to world champions Germany in their own backyard, a 1-0 win over Georgia, a draw with Poland and then a good win over the Republic of Ireland.

And then the rot set in, despite an emphatic win over Euros newcomers Gibraltar.

A draw in Dublin against the Irish was followed up with a meek defeat in Georgia. Another narrow loss to Germany, this time a 3-2 reversal at Hampden, preceded a 2-2 draw with Poland in which Robert Lewandowski scored a 94th minute equaliser consigning the Scots to fourth place.

High: Fans back him to stay

Fans sang Strachan’s name as Scotland thumped Gibraltar in Portugal, winning 6-0. He decided to stay on for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, getting off to a decent start with a 5-1 win over Malta.

Low: The Lithuania debacle

An 89th minute equaliser from James McArthur spared Scotland from an embarrassing defeat, but the next two matches - 3-0 reversals to Slovakia and England - turned out to be pivotal in Scotland’s eventual failure to reach Russia. Strachan held talks after the England defeat but was kept on.

High: Resurgence and an outside chance of making the play-offs

Whatever Strachan did after the Canada game it worked, as Scotland scrambled a last-gasp victory over Slovenia to reignite their hopes of finishing second. An injury-time equaliser (sound familiar?) robbed Scotland of a famous win over England but convincing wins over Lithuania and Malta, and a late, late win over Slovakia saw Scotland come within touching distance of making the play-offs.

Low: Slovenia, genetics and exit

Scotland took the lead in Ljubljana and led at half-time as fans held their breath. But the same old mistakes haunted Scotland. Slovenia equalised in the 52nd minute through half-time substitute Roman Bezjak, before the same player took advantage of lax defending to put Slovenia 2-1 up with just under 20 minutes left. Darren Fletcher missed a gilt-edged chance to equalise on 80 minutes, and substitute Snodgrass’s goal on 88 minutes gave Scotland the briefest glimpse of renewed hope but ultimately Scotland fall short again as Slovakia’s victory over Malta sees them finish second on goal difference. Strachan refused to answer questions about his future in the aftermath, saying his focus was on the players before eventually blaming genetics for Scotland’s failure. Four days later he was gone.