A defiant final roar from our “born winner”! A couple of drops remain of his signature optimism. There’ll be a couple of drops of malt downed tonight, that’s for sure, both in Mendoza and back home. Goodbye, Argentina ‘78, we hardly knew ye. This campaign will surely go down in legend as one of the most reckless, hopeless, needlessly farcical failures in the entire history of the World Cup. Sent homeward, tae think again. Again. But hey, at least you can’t say it was boring. And maybe we’ll look back at all this carry-on with fondness given time. After all, who knows what other horrors may supersede it years to come?
A word with Ally MacLeod, who makes sure we get the top line of his message. “It’s just one of those things.” He says this six times in a five-minute press conference. “As manager you must take the blame. I told my kids to save up to see us defend the World Cup in Spain but it’s not to be. When we were 3-1 up, I looked at the clock and saw there was 20 minutes and realised it might be in our hands. But you get a bit elated when it’s like that and you get caught. It’s just one of those things. If we’d played like that from the beginning, we would have won the competition.”
“Scotland can at least go home and look people in the face,” suggests David Coleman on the BBC. Hmm, let’s see how that pans out. But yes, the point stands: some dignity has been reclaimed. In fact, Scotland were for the most part brilliant tonight, but had no luck whatsoever in the crucial moments. It’s almost as if there’s some huge karmic payback going on for the SFA’s sniffy attitude back in 1950.
FULL TIME: Scotland 3-2 Holland
Scotland, this year’s hipsters’ choice, are out of the 1978 World Cup. Oh Ally. Hugh Forgan enquires: “What colour of medal did we get?”
90 min: Donachie finds Hartford down the left. Hartford whips the ball to the far post, where Forsyth, unchallenged and six yards out, heads over when it was far, far easier to score. He picks himself up from the turf, his body heavy with depression. That should have been Scotland’s fourth. Not that it matters a jot, because the Scots would still have required another after that, and before Jongbloed can take the goal kick …
88 min: “It really is sad, when you look at the ability these Scottish players have got, that they find themselves in this position at all,” sighs David Coleman on the BBC. Yep, expect quite the debrief. The fallout could last years. Will Scotland lose their confidence, their trademark swagger? Things might never be the same again.
86 min: Jansen boofs a long ball up the left. Rene van der Kerkhof steals a march on Buchan and enters the area. From a tight angle, he fires straight through the six-yard box, the ball missing the right-hand post by a couple of feet. Rough had shown him far too much of the near post there, so much so that he was diving back towards goal in his attempt to stop the shot. What comically dreadful positioning.
85 min: Gemmill slides Forsyth away down the right. Forsyth is upended. Gemmill swings his free kick onto the penalty spot, where Krol heads confidently clear. Suurbier hits long down the left. The chasing Rep jinks past Kennedy and makes good for the box, but his low pullback for Rene van der Kerkhof is cut out brilliantly by Donachie. To be scrupulously fair to Scotland, while they’re now performing under a large black cloud, they haven’t once thrown in the towel.
83 min: Hartford, Souness, Kennedy and Dalglish ping it around in pretty triangles down the right. Holland played at their own game. But once again they crash onto the rocks of the Dutch offside trap. Scotland come again, Kennedy in space down his wing, but though Jordan is on hand to meet the deep cross at the left-hand post, Jongbloed diverts the ball out of the road.
82 min: Scotland are bereft. Emotionally drained. There’s nothing left in the tank. A nice simple 0-3 defeat would have been much easier to process.
80 min: Kennedy is robbed down the left by Willy van der Kerkhof, but with brother Rene begging for a pass down the middle, he wangs a ludicrously heavy pass straight towards Rough.
79 min: The Dutch have been well below par tonight, but Rep’s movement is something to behold. From the corner, he’s found to the right of the Scottish D, his back to goal. He plays the ball downfield to Willy van der Kerkhof, who chips forward down the middle, Rep having swung round in a gentle arc to beat the offside trap and break into the box. Such a smooth move, and a shame that he ends it by rather absent-mindedly sending a soft header straight down Rough’s gullet.
78 min: Plenty of possession for Holland now. Rensenbrink is sent into acres down the left, but even though the Scottish defence is pretty threadbare, he settles for a corner, not blessed with much in the way of support.
77 min: This is turning out to be heartbreaking. Bittersweet at best. Only Scotland. Still, would we have them any other way? Probably, yes.
75 min: The Scottish fans are still giving it plenty, but there’s a sense that the jig is up. Souness walked away from that last burst of action with his head hung low. Or as low as the Sounessian pride will allow.
74 min: Hartford, to the right of the centre circle, rakes a super diagonal pass towards Dalglish, sending him clear down the inside left. But not for the first time Dalglish’s lack of pace lets him down, and he hasn’t got the power to break into the box. He hesitates, allowing Krol to cover. Dalglish clips the ball inside for Souness, who has time to shoot on the edge of the area but opts to knock a pass back to Rioch. Hartford tries to Gemmill his way through the Dutch back line with a little chip, but the ball’s blocked and Dalglish is stranded offside.
73 min: Gemmill takes his frustration out on the ball, blootering it down the left to set Donachie into space. His cross to the far post is contested by Jordan, but overly so. Peep!
GOAL. Scotland 3-2 Holland (Rep 72)
Yep, this is Scotland all right. Having battled to within one goal of making it through, here comes instant deflation. Hartford slides a pass forward to Dalglish on the edge of the D. The striker looks to turn to his right but is crowded out. So close to breaking through for that killer blow. But then comes the killer blow Scotland didn’t want. Krol jogs towards the halfway line and finds Rep on the right, just inside his own half. Rep flicks back to Krol, who has advanced down the channel. Krol then returns the favour, with Rep underlapping him on the inside, picking up speed. Scotland don’t close him down, and from 30 yards he unleashes a rising shot towards the top-left corner. Rough does his best to get a hand to it – the ball might even have brushed the tips of his gloved fingers – but that just can’t be stopped! Rep turns, a toothy grin spreading over his face more in relief than celebration. In the background, Gemmill looks totally distraught, his once-in-a-lifetime achievement, his career pinnacle, his work of art, rendered worthless junk after 202 seconds.
70 min: That was arguably the greatest goal ever scored at a World Cup! What a slalom! What genius! But this is Scotland, and so inevitably it’s nearly followed up by the most laughable own goal of all time. Jansen goes on a lumber down the right and wins a free kick, shoulder-charged with unnecessary force by Buchan. Boskamp takes the set piece, whipping the ball through the six-yard area. Rough flaps. Kennedy connects at the far post, knocking a downward header behind for a corner – but only missing the left-hand post by an inch or so! It’s a small wonder that didn’t find the net. He was under no pressure whatsoever! Nothing comes from the resulting corner, but dearie me.
GOL! GOL!!! GOOOOOOOL!!!!! Escocia 3-1 Holanda!!!!!!! (Gemmill 69)
69 min: Please assume the brace position. You’re not going to believe this, but … this … this is on!!! Because …
68 min: Holland aren’t looking all that sharp up front right now, either. Rensenbrink chips a pass forward in the hope of releasing Willy van der Kerkhof, but the covering Souness cushions a superb defensive header back to Rough. The keeper bowls the ball out to Hartford on the right, by the halfway line. He cuts inside and is bundled over by Rene van der Kerkhof. Rioch takes the free kick, tapping to Kennedy on the right wing. And then …
66 min: Scotland have the Dutch firmly on the back clog. Can they strike while the iron is hot?
65 min: But Jordan’s nothing if not a presence, a constant menace, and here he isn’t too far away from latching onto Hartford’s speculative pass down the middle. Holland aren’t looking particularly comfortable or secure at the back. Not at all.
64 min: Souness strokes a left-to-right crossfield pass into the path of Kennedy, who is bombing down the right channel. The full back takes a heavy touch, a pity because space for a shot was opening up in front of him. But Rene van der Kerkhof, belying Holland’s nerves, steps across and concedes a sloppy corner. He gets away with this one, Jordan penalised for pushing and shoving, in the fashion of a galoot, when the corner’s sent in.
63 min: Rene van der Kerkhof curls a high cross in from the right. Rensenbrink is clear on the penalty spot, but slices a volley into the air. Rough comes out to collect under pressure from Rep, but can’t get a proper hold of the ball. Luckily for Scotland – a tattered mess at the back, having presumably decided it’s Buenos Aires or bust – Forsyth is on hand to mop up and clear the lines.
62 min: Jansen sends Rene van der Kerkhof away down the right. Closing towards the byline, he breaks left, poking the ball past Rioch and into the area. Rough races towards him and decides to stay upright and tackle with his feet. Van der Kerkhof doesn’t fancy a dust-up, and shirks the challenge, ceding possession to the keeper. Scotland were living dangerously there.
60 min: The Dutch look a bit rattled here. Three rash fouls transport Scotland from box to box. First Rensenbrink pulls Gemmill back by the neck, then Boskamp slides through Jordan like spatula under fried egg, and finally Poortvliet clatters Dalglish just outside the Dutch box on the left. Souness floats the free kick to Jordan, level with the right-hand post. He’s the boss of the Dutch defence, and wins yet another knock-down, but Forsyth, six yards out in the middle, isn’t paying attention properly and is on the back foot when the ball flashes across goal. No matter, he was flagged offside anyway – another slightly questionable decision by the linesman – but he should have skelped that into the net just to put the wind up Holland, if nothing else.
58 min: Dalglish snaps around Boskamp’s ankles and wins possession marvellously. Souness finds Forsyth, who rakes a long pass down the inside-right channel for Dalglish. For a second, Kenny looks like breaking clear. But he doesn’t quite have the pace to reach the pass, Poortvliet coming across to cover and welt the ball out of play on the right. From the throw, Souness whips in a cross, and Dalglish flashes a header wide right. If that was on the postage stamp, it’s not clear Jongbloed would have had it covered. “He’s grown up today,” sniffs the BBC’s David Coleman down the distant phone-line, referring to a player who has won four Scottish titles, scored 19 international goals, and notched a winner in a European Cup final.
57 min: Boskamp lumps a free kick into the Scottish area from a central position, 35 yards out. Forsyth clears. Rene van der Kerkhof, 25 yards out, just to the left, sends the ball high, right and very much towards 1962 World Cup hosts Chile.
56 min: “You’ll never walk alone,” trill the Scottish fans, which is either staunch support, or biting comment on the state of the team bus, and the fact Chrysler have taken back the keys to all the squad’s sponsored Avengers. True story.
55 min: Holland seriously click into gear for the first time this afternoon. Rep takes a quick free kick down the right, tapping to Jansen who slips the ball wide to Boskamp. The blond substitute curls a cross into the centre, where Rep connects with a spectacular bicycle kick from just inside the box. The ball flies well over the bar, a sad end to a crisp move. Let’s not tempt fate too much, but it doesn’t look as though Rep has his shooting boots with him today.
53 min: Krol obstructs Dalglish as the pair battle down the Scottish right, near the corner flag. The fans keep singing. “Bonnie Scotland, we’ll support you ever more!” Even after Hartford wafts a dim free kick to the far post where Jordan isn’t.
52 min: This game is – and indeed has always been – a couple of decent final balls away from becoming a scoring spectacular. First Kennedy is released in acres down the right, zipping past a mistimed Suurbier lunge, but his cross is awful. Then Rene van der Kerkhof takes up the ball to the left of the Scottish half, plays a loose pass into the middle behind Rep, chases after it himself, skins Buchan on the outside down the right, then upon reaching the byline hoicks the cross out of play. Try predicting how this is going to end! OK, yes, it’s Scotland at a World Cup, maybe that’s not such a hard task. But how are they going to go out? Because it’s far from clear how this will finish.
51 min: Rep and Rensenbrink twinkle along the right-hand edge of the Scotland area, looking for a way through, but when the ball’s eventually dinked into the box, Buchan is across to sweep up calmly. Scotland move upfield through Jordan, who is upended by Wildschut just inside the Dutch half down the left. He springs up immediately, and is sent clear down the wing by a quickly taken free kick. He crosses low, but it’s a bit rushed, and nowhere near either Hartford or Rioch.
50 min: Rep has a slash from 25 yards, an awkward low ball bouncing along the scarred turf towards the bottom left. Rough is down to parry to the right, then springs up to claim.
49 min: Well, well, well. What a start to the second half. But it’s all fairly subdued in the immediate aftermah of that goal, almost as though both sides are carefully recalculating their positions. Kennedy swings in a hopeful cross from the right, but Jordan is outjumped for once, this time by Krol. “Pretty sure Scotland are going to blow this,” sighs Hugh Forgan, who as an East Fife fan too young to remember their great cup side of the late forties and early fifties, is used to watching his team serve up performances of fruitless disappointment. Gotta love football!
GOAL!!! Scotland 2-1 Holland (Gemmill 47 pen)
Gemmill threads the spot kick into the bottom-right corner with a flip of his left foot. All of a sudden, thanks to a couple of goals bookending the break, the world looks very different place! This couldn’t be on, could it? Surely not. No. But it could be. It could be on. It’s on!
47 min: PENALTY TO SCOTLAND!!! Dalglish crosses to Jordan, ten yards out and level with the left-hand post. He nods down for Souness, who can’t quite get the ball under control but nevertheless takes it towards goal. He’s bundled over, six yards out, by Willy van der Kerkhof! Souness springs to his feet and slowly raises his right arm into the air, a look of quiet, calm determination on his face, a deliberate show of gentle power. This could be a perfect start to the half for MacLeod’s side!
We’re off again! Hats off to the BBC, who miss the start of the second half. Jimmy Hill is forced to cut off Jock Stein in mid-flow as the pictures from Argentina finally demand attention. Souness is immediately sent clear down the left, and his cross is only half dealt with by Holland. Kennedy takes up the attack down the right, winning a corner off Rensenbrink. From which …
Meanwhile over on the BBC …
… Jimmy Hill, sporting the sort of geometric beard that would get him a good table near the front at a jazz club, chairs the half-time discussion. Jack Taylor, who refereed the 1974 final between West Germany and Holland, doesn’t know why Dalglish’s attempt on 14 mins was ruled out. “I couldn’t see anything wrong with it. The referee is experienced, he was at the last World Cup, but I didn’t agree with him there. But I respect his decision.” As for the penalty shout, Jock Stein, currently between jobs having left Celtic, is in no doubt: “It looked a penalty kick, the tackle from behind, yes.” Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy says Scotland have been a “joy to watch … we’re just really saying, why didn’t it happened before?” And finally Billy Bremner, freshly retired after seeing out his playing career at Hull, is a wee bit more direct in his criticism, and you wouldn’t have him any other way: “It just goes to show what could have happened had their attitude been right from the off. It’s all right playing well tonight, and we’re playing exceptionally well, but it’s all down to attitude. And our attitude has been A1 tonight.”
Half-time advertisement break. Featuring a different Chrysler ad, plus a wonderfully Soviet campaign for Tea.
HALF TIME: Scotland 1-1 Holland
The whistle goes, and the players troop off. A draw’s the very least Scotland deserve at this stage. You can make a solid case that they should be comfortably leading, though Holland came back strongly and could have had a couple more themselves. A fine performance so far, but let’s not get too carried away with the plaudits: they still need three goals if they’re to make the second round, and now they’ve only got 45 minutes in which to get them.
45 min +3: Boskamp attempts to beat Rough from 40 yards. Come off it and come on. Even allowing for the keeper’s somewhat idiosyncratic style, that’s taking things a wee bit too far. “We’ll support you ever more!” holler the Scotland fans, quite the volte-face from their intemperate demands for a refund post-Iran.
45 min +1: Rijsbergen can’t continue, and is replaced by Piet Wildschut. Then some end-to-end high-jinks. Kennedy reaches the byline out on the right and whistles a cross towards Rioch, level with the far post on the edge of the area. He heads across for Souness, who swishes his boot through thin air. Oop. Holland sweep up the left through Rene van der Kerkhof. His cross finds Rensenbrink free in acres on the edge of the box, but the striker can’t control.
GOAL!!! Scotland 1-1 Holland (Dalglish 45)
Here we go! Here we go! Suddenly the picture changes a little! Souness, loitering on the left, just outside the area, caresses a diagonal cross towards Jordan, ten yards out, level with the right-hand post. The big striker rises elegantly above Rensenbrink – miles above – and heads back across goal, and down towards Dalglish, a perfect tee-up. Dalglish sets himself, lets the ball bounce, balletically swivels, and creams a rising shot into the top right past Jongbloed’s despairing wave! What a stunning finish that is, from a player who has rarely replicated his Celtic and Liverpool form on the international stage.
43 min: Rene van der Kerkhof turns on the burners to embarrass Kennedy down the left. The full back does enough to ensure he doesn’t make the area, but Holland win a corner. The ball’s worked out to the right, allowing Rene’s twin Willy to send a weak shot down Rough’s throat. Scotland are beginning to be pulled this way and that. They’ve lost a lot of momentum after the goal. Their fast start seems an age ago.
42 min: Scotland look a little lost right now. Deflated, understandably so. They really need something to happen before half-time, if only to stop them slipping into a funk of deepest blue during the break.
40 min: Holland push Scotland back for a while, but a sustained period in the Scottish final third produces little of worth. Having soaked it up, Souness dinks a pass down the right to release Dalglish, whose cross is deflected towards Jordan at the near post. The big man goes up, forcing Jongbloed to flap out for a corner. The set piece ends up with the ball at Souness’s feet in a deep position. He tries to clip forward for Dalglish again, but Rep has led his defenders on a charge upfield and, for the 948th time already this afternoon, Scotland have several men caught offside. They’ve been unlucky, for sure, but on occasion unacceptably slow of thought, too.
38 min: Poor old Scotland, though. They’ve been the better side, created more of the chances, and a couple of big decisions haven’t gone their way. In a parallel universe somewhere, Scotland would be at least a couple of goals up right now. They’ll have won the 1966 World Cup in one of those parallel universes, too. Probably best to stop thinking like this, it’ll drive us round the bend.
36 min: An immediate response by the Scots, who have clearly decided they may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and are piling forward in the gung-ho fashion. Donachie is sent scampering into space down the left. His cross shaves the top of Jordan’s head, six yards out. The ball flies to Rioch, racing in from the right. His low drive towards the bottom right is met well by Jongbloed, and Boskamp mops up the rebound.
GOAL!!! Scotland 0-1 Holland (Rensenbrink 35 pen)
This is clinical: Rensenbrink heat-seeks a low penalty into the bottom-left corner. Simple as that. Rough went the right way, and wasn’t far off getting to the ball either, but it was such a well-placed kick the poor keeper had no chance. That’s the 1,000th goal in all World Cup finals. The way the last week’s gone for Scotland, they’ll feel like they’ve conceded the whole bloody lot. They now need four to progress. Four. Against the 1974 finalists. God speed, boys!
34 min: PENALTY TO HOLLAND! What was that I said about fun? Rough throws the ball out to Kennedy on the right. The full back rolls a pass forward to Souness, who gives it back. Rensenbrink rushes in to press Kennedy, who experiences a rush of blood and, such is the paradoxical beauty of language, freezes. He turns, contemplating a backpass, but his dithering allows Rensenbrink to prod the ball away from him, down the Dutch left. Rep swarms in to pick up the loose ball and race into the area. He looks to go outside the advancing Rough, but he’s bundled over by Kennedy, desperate to catch up and atone. A no-brainer for the referee. So typical of this Scotland vintage, after playing so well. Gemmill is booked for giving the referee lip.
32 min: Holland are turning the screw a bit now. Boskamp pings a crossfield pass to Rene van der Kerkhof down the right. The resulting cross is headed down lamely by Forsyth to the edge of his own area, where Souness is forced into a desperate last-ditch tackle as Boskamp rushes in to shoot. Scotland rush upfield through Dalglish. He races sportingly past Rijsbergen, who has been down for a minute or so after landing awkwardly from an aerial challenge with Jordan. Fair enough, the Dutch were more than happy to attack while their player was rolling about in agony. Dalglish hoicks up the wing to Rioch, who is shoved out of the way by Rep, then hacks at the Dutch star’s ankles in frustration. It’s great fun, this.
30 min: Donachie, inside the Dutch half on the left, rolls a ball inside for Gemmill, but the wee man is away with the fairies, perhaps trying to recalculate his wage packet minus the Chrysler money. Krol steps in to intercept, and takes a few strides towards the centre circle before rolling a pass down the left channel for Rensenbrink. The striker’s clear, but he’s not getting to the ball ahead of Rough, who races from his area and slides along the ground to smother with his hands! Either he’s still suffering from that bang to the noggin, and maybe too much sun to the neep, or more likely that was as cynical as it comes. He trots back to his goalline with the ball tucked under his arm, not a trace of guilt or regret on his face. All Holland get is a free kick just to the left of the D. Boskamp hits an idiotic shot straight into the wall, and Jensen skies the rebound miles over the bar. One of the greatest professional fouls in history, not bad going for a player who is only part-time with Partick Thistle.
29 min: Rijsbergen races down the left and curls a cross onto the head of Rensenbrink, whose aimless header floats wide left. Holland are getting back into this game now, after a fairly undistinguished start by their lofty standards.
28 min: Jensen skins Gemmill down the right and loops a cross to the far post. It’s a bit overcooked, but Rensenbrink manages to extend a giraffe’s neck to send it arcing towards the right side of goal. Rough has to stretch high to collect, and as he does so he’s unceremoniously dumped to the floor by Rep. Rough’s got shot of the Confederacy Cap since the last attack, and could have done with the extra protection, as he rattles into the post and sits dazed awhile, propped up in the style of the alfresco drinker.