After 22 years suffering calamity all over the continent, and occasionally beyond it, bringing an end to Scotland’s major tournament drought was never going to be easy, was it?
The first 89 minutes in Belgrade was how other countries go about qualifying. A well-conceived plan put consummately into action, with little threat being felt.
From then on it was pure Scotland. A stunning equaliser, reanimating opponents who had looked beaten, was the precursor to half an hour clinging with fatigued fingers to the qualification cliff-face, and an almost inevitable shoot-out.
History said that this was where the dream would fade. Specialists in disaster, and seasoned explorers in the territory of methods of tournament elimination, this was the opportunity to grasp the glorious failure with which Scotland are so intimately acquainted.
But this is a Scotland side, which has grown hugely in character under Steve Clarke, amply demonstrated by the fact that, both here and in the semi-final against Israel, all five of its penalty takers hit the mark with magical, extraordinary aplomb.
It is the end of a generation-long tale of woe, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Having suffered so long and so variously, a crazy, all-or-nothing, do-or-die climax is perfect.
— P&J Sport (@PandJSport) November 13, 2020
That Scotland will always find novel ways of snatching failure from the jaws of success is a fact known not only by those who have never seen their country play in a major finals, but by their parents, and their parents before them. Not now; not today.
Nobody will pretend that all ills in Scottish football have been cured by one single qualification, but if ever a country deserved its moment in the sun, this is it. Wha’s like us, eh?