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  1. John Haggart might have been the only sane man in Scotland in 1978. His observation that Iran were athletic, fit and very mobile is spot on, but no one wanted to know. There’s a prevailing myth that Iran were some kind of 70s version of San Marino or Gibraltar. They weren’t. Prior to their Revolution in 1979 Iranian football had been generously bankrolled by the previous regime. That’s why they had been Asian champions for 10 years and that’s why they cruised their 14 WC qualifiers (won 12, drew 2). Yes, Asian football in those days was not as competitive as it subsequently became, but these stats are indicating they were not the complete dross people wanted to think they were. If only Ally M had a World Soccer subscription at the time he might have been more knowledgable and respectful towards them (likewise Peru x 10). Back then the WC was still throwing up embarrassing schoolboy scores. (the WCs either side of 78 produced 9-0 and 10-1 gubbings). Iran were too well organised to ever succumb to such defeats. Their 78 showing actually wasn’t too shabby. They conceded 8 goals (4 of them pens), the same number we conceded at the next WC. All things considered they proved to be okay for a bottom seed, if limited up front, and certainly didn’t disgrace themselves in any of their 3 matches down there. We should’ve beaten them for the simple reason we had better players, but the idea that Iran were completely hopeless is another Argentina myth, fed to an ignorant and parochial Scottish public (myself included) by an equally ignorant and parochial media. Argentina 78 basically comes down to this: we overestimated our own squad and underestimated the opposition. As some posters on this thread have correctly pointed out, the idea that our team - already past its peak -was ever likely to “bring back a medal” is completely laughable. Holland, Peru and Iran was never going to be the cakewalk people imagined it would be.
  2. I had umpteen uncles who swore blind our player pool in the 60s was better than anything that came afterwards. I’d then ask them how come we qualified for nothing in the 60s. They blamed bad luck, injuries and mismanagement for our failure to qualify for anything back then. I’m not so sure. There’s a surprising amount of this old stuff up on the likes of YouTube and when you watch it a pattern starts to emerge: we were repeatedly beating, or at least matching, the big hitters but dropping vital points to the lesser nations. Examples of this are.. WCQ 66 - beating Group winners Italy but losing at home to Poland ECQ 68 - beating the so-called world champions at Wembley but losing to northern Ireland WCQ 70 - holding a formidable Germany but squandering points to Austria. Complacency? Unable to raise our game consistently? Who knows. Maybe just a case of individual talents - Baxter, McNeil, Law, Cooke, Crerand, Jinky etc - who couldn’t gel collectively.
  3. This thread has morphed into a more general debate about Scotland’s comparative successes/failures at big tourneys, so here’s a statistical breakdown of our 11 appearances at these events. “Points” are expressed as a percentage of those won v those available (the toughness of the opposition is used as a ranking decider for those occasions where the figures are identical). It’s not an exact science. How could it be? Even comparing a 1950s WC with this year’s Euros is a bit apples and oranges, not to mention 3 points for a win being a relatively newish innovation. But still, it’s interesting to compare performances. I think the big question from this data is…where the hell were Scotland in the 1960s? TOURNEY. POINTS. RANK 74 WC. 67%. 1 78 WC. 50%. 2 82 WC. 50%. 3 96 EC. 44%. 4 92 EC. 33%. 5 90 WC. 33%. 6 86 WC. 17%. 7 58 WC. 17%. 8 2020 EC. 11%. 9 98 WC. 11%. 10 54 WC. 0%. 11
  4. The underlying point is that the Miller-Hansen debacle wasn’t some kind of one-off example of disorganisation or confusion. Our 82 WC was full of idiotic defending. At least half the goals we conceded were the direct result of defensive frailty/naïveté. Is this the fault of the players or coach? If coaches are praised to the rafters for selecting and organising a successful team then they must also be accountable for failures. They can’t have it both ways. Middle ranking nations like Scotland must at the very least have credible defences. It’s unknowable, but I cannot see a Fergie or a Craig Brown or even a Steve Clarke tolerating the kind of schoolboy errors we made at the back in 82, typified by the two NZ goals. Ultimately the buck stops with the boss. I stand by my claim: Stein bungled 82.
  5. Not before time IMO. Some of these recent qualifying results (20-0!) undermine the competition. To what extent Scotland’s morale is sapped by that horsing in Spain remains to be seen, but it must be a bonus for us that the next WC match isn’t til April. Plenty of time for Pedro to sort their heads out. Were we missing a bunch of influential players v Spain or was that more or less our regular starting X1?
  6. Thanks for the insights. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on this over the next 6 months or so.
  7. Stein bungled 82. Shipping 8 goals in 3 games at this level exposes glaring tactical deficiencies. It’s poor coaching. 8 goals! Of the 24 competing nations only pisspoor New Zealand and El Salvador conceded more. We certainly can’t blame it on inexperience. Scottish players who kicked a ball down there must’ve had about 500 caps between them. Compare our 82 to similar nations playing a similar style of football, with a squad of equal (or lesser) players, and who were likewise seeded 3rd in their Group. For example, Northern Ireland. They had hosts Spain and a tough Yugoslavia in their Group and only conceded ONCE. Why? Because they were better organised. Their manager played to their collective strengths, not their individual weaknesses. Compare 82 to 86, under Fergie. We had a comprehensively tougher Group (no minnows) and only conceded 3. Spain wasn’t an aberration. Stein’s defensive shortcomings were again exposed in the follow-up Euro 84 qualifiers, another alarming defensive debacle on our way to finishing bottom of our section. I agree with poster Marlow. The 82 squad was better than 78’s. The opposition was weaker too, IMO. The Soviets - essentially our main rivals - showed no credible form either side of 82. They’d finished last in the most recent EC qualifiers, trailing Greece, Hungary and Finland ffs. Obviously you’re no European diddy reaching a WC, but USSR had a really easy qualifying section for Spain 82 (Iceland, Turkey and some others with little or no WC pedigree). The Miller-Hansen slapstick show was indicative of a deeper malaise: we were a defensive shambles. The 2 NZ goals are still painful to watch. Stein was incapable of maximising the resources at his disposal. Defenders Miller, Hansen, McGrain, Frank Gray to a lesser extent…superior club players and capable internationalists every one of them. Down in Spain they looked like they’d never met before. And even Stein realised the folly of picking Allan Evans. He never picked him again. If Stein takes the plaudits for past glories (and rightly so) then he must also take the blame for Spain 82.
  8. Loving the impudence of this post. A wind-up surely? Joe Jordan is Scotland’s most significant ever international player, it could be argued. Scoring in 3 consecutive World Cups, scoring the winner that got us to Germany 74, not to mention being a fine handball player ( sorry Wales). Keep em coming Mark.
  9. My knowledge of women’s football is limited to latter stage games in the big two international tourneys, so I’m no authority on it. However I thought that Spain display was among the best I’ve ever seen in the women’s game. Accurate passing, impressive physicality, great finishing, a really cohesive team effort. Three questions for the more knowledgable punter… 1) how serious a contender are Spain to win the next Euros (which I’ll be watching)? 2) is there a touch of the Bertie Vogts about Pedro ( he’s a foreigner so he MUST be good)? 3) was this a glitch, or are Scotland regressing generally?
  10. Ah, the “drugs scandal”. How can we forget? But it needs a bit of perspective. Although without doubt a stain on our good name, how much did it actually affect our performances? It occurred after the Peru match so we can say with absolute certainty it had no bearing on that particular outcome. If it caused some kind of deep collective psychological wound among the squad then it healed suspiciously quickly; 4 days after Iran we were beating the second best team in the tournament. Willie Johnston was poorly advised by a bungling SFA, but no way were these hay fever pills the “performance enhancing” stimulants they were made out to be. If anything they were performance de-hancing anti-stimulants: Peru was - by common consensus and by the player’s own admission - his worst ever in a Scotland shirt. Some stimulant, eh?
  11. That’s a 5.5 out of 10 squad. 6 if we’re being generous. In the context of top level international football it’s crammed with honest-to-goodness triers, augmented by a handful of players that were better than the prevailing average. Those claiming the squad had every right to believe they’d be among the medals should ask themselves this: how many of them would have gotten a game for either of the two teams that actually WERE among the medals? Souness? In 78 he was an emerging talent, regarded as nothing more than a competent and combative midfielder, but hardly of major significance. That’s why he’d only won about half a dozen caps - a good chunk of them in try-out Friendlies- in the years before 78. Souness won the vast majority of his caps in 80s. He’d spent most of the pre- Argentina period beavering away at mediocre Middlesbrough. I recall Ally McLeod being unimpressed by Souness’ relocation to Australian league football about a year before Argentina (haven’t checked it but I suspect this relocation was one of those short-term job-cum-holiday junkets). Souness had only arrived at Liverpool about 6 months prior to the WC. Yes, he collected a European Cup medal that same year which emphatically means he was a good player. But he wasn’t yet a great one. Dalglish? Magnificent club player. Obviously. But his Scotland form was notoriously erratic. That’s not because he was unpatriotic or had more important things on his mind. He was simply confronted with better opponents at International level than he was confronted with domestically. Veteran TA used to joke that if Dalglish could wear his Liverpool top playing for Scotland we’d be world beaters. It’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. Some continue to claim that our victory v Holland is proof that we could indeed have been among the medals, given a bit more luck or preparation or feet-on-the-ground realism. It’s cockeyed logic. Any World Cup entrant can beat any other World Cup entrant on a given day. World Cup lore is full of one-hit wonders (Senegal,North Korea,Algeria,you name em). But you’ll notice none of them ever go the distance and actually do end up “among the medals”. Raising your game for a one-off is a very different business from raising your game 6 or 7 times in a month. The Holland win brought momentary cheer to the nation and we’re very grateful for it happening. Any other interpretation of it is wishful thinking. *** Although no world beater himself, I always found Asa Hartford easy on the eye and a bit underrated. Great passer of the ball and industrious too. Check out his contribution to the Wembley “goal-posts” win in 77. I think the full match is still up on YouTube.
  12. Yes, but for reasons of player availability, not chronology. Only 3 of our 74 squad were regular starters at WC 78. Many significant players from 74 (our best ever team IMO) didn’t make it. Bremner, Hay, Lorimer, Holton, McGrain, Morgan and umpteen others…they were all absent for one reason or another. Given the upheaval in personnel, I think it’s reasonable to claim the 74 campaign is irrelevant as a reliable indicator of how we were likely to fare in Argentina. There were far more reliable indicators out there. Conversely, Peru benefitted from continuity of selection. Half their 75 Copa America winning squad were still intact come 78. Crucially (for them, not us) this included 3 of the most iconic players in Peruvian football folklore: captain Chumpitaz, talisman Cubillas and the hare like Oblitas. The importance of those first two guys in particular cannot be overstated. They are generally regarded to have been two of the best ever players to emerge from that continent ( Brazil & Argentina aside). I think it was Asa Hartford who subsequently claimed to have been surprised, if not astonished, by the pace and movement of the Peruvians. They were faster and fitter than us. Their passing was more precise. They were less wasteful in front of goal. In other words, they were better than us. At a pinch you could argue the margin of victory flattered them a bit, given our penalty miss, but they unquestionably deserved the points on the day. But hang on a minute! Didn’t the Scottish narrative insist they were a ragbag of old blokes past their best? They were nothing of the sort. The average age of Peru’s squad (around 26) was LESS than the average age of our squad. That’s another myth debunked. 1978 is full of them. The irony about 78 is that for all the off-field malarkey it remains one of our most statistically impressive showings at a major tournament. Only Germany 74 betters it.
  13. I see you’ve snuck in double digit Friendlies into that opening stat. Friendlies are worthless as a form guide. Everyone knows that. They’re used for tactical tinkering, blooding youngsters, fitness generators etc. You’ve also cited another Friendly ( 1-1 v Argentina) as some kind of prop for your argument. A draw with the future World Champions sounds mightily impressive, until you see the team they started with against us, only 4 of whom began v Holland in the WC final a year later. That’s not to say an away draw with Argentina’s second or third string is without merit, but it wasn’t the real deal of competitive international football. It was a warm up. A chance to experiment. It might have been a blood’n’snotters spectacle but it was still a Friendly. Finishing unbeaten in 1974 is irrelevant to Argentina 78. There was a huge rebuild going on. Only 6 of the 74 squad made it to Argentina. Not to mention a different manager with a different tactical philosophy, such as it was. You’ve also included a raft of Home International fixtures in your opening stat. I’m not sure these annual battles are useful for gauging our quality on the wider and more taxing global stage back then. Beating Northern Ireland every 2 or 3 years was hardly the stuff of legend. Even big bad England were rotten during the period in question. They qualified for nothing in the 70s. Papped out of 4 consecutive tourneys at the Group stages. But despite England’s rankness, our mindset back then appears to have been…well, if we’re beating England then we must be REALLY good. I enjoy stuffing England as much as the next man, but that kind of thinking was wrongheaded. The Wembley 77 win probably started all this Argentina bravado in the first place. The Home Internationals were a Trojan Horse of self-delusion. A more reliable gauge of our form and likely chances prior to Argentina 78 is to start from the 1976 Euro qualifiers and take it from there, focusing on the real stuff of competitive matches against European opposition. Our record was averagely decent. About a 50% win rate. Admittedly, during this relevant period we only beat one top rated side (Czechoslovakia) Apart from that there was really nothing much else to shout about. There wasn’t much else to shout about after Argentina either, finishing 2nd bottom of a 5-team Group with more or less the same bunch of players in the 78 squad. I think that’s telling us something. If, as you seem to be suggesting, having players enjoying club success in Europe during the 70s was an indicator of a national team’s likely worth, then how come England’s most barren international streak in their entire history coincided with their clubs marauding to about 10 or more European finals at the same time? It doesn’t compute. If this kind of logic held water, then how could Scotland possibly fail to qualify for anything in the 1960s, despite all those Scots boasting European Cup medals? ( Celtic, Man U). The reason is because the gulf between club and international football in the 70s was indeed vast. IRAN: Yes, we should have beaten them, because we had the superior ranking, which also means we had superior players. I have never claimed anything otherwise. I merely pointed out that there was an historical precedent for a written-off Asian nation causing an almighty WC upset, and getting to the QFs in the process. We were seeded 3rd in our 78 Group and that’s exactly where we finished. That’s a glaringly obvious indicator that we performed to expectations, no more no less (in the same way that we recently exceeded expectations by finishing 2nd in our WC qualifying section). And by “expectations” I mean the real-world fact-based objective ranking/seeding system, not the expectations of a heart-ruling-the-head hunch that appears to be responsible for some folks’ curious idea that we were much better in the mid-to late 70s than we actually were.
  14. Why would Scotland in 78 be a present day Belgium ? (World Cup semi-finalists last time out and the best team in the world if FIFA’s ranking system is anywhere near accurate).
  15. At least it won’t happen in bevvy-averse Qatar. Double mint teas, anyone?
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