Tag Archives: Scotland

From Podcast to Promised Land? Could Open Goal Replicate Its Studio Success on the Pitch and Progress through Scotland’s Footballing Pyramid?

“Scottish football has never been in short supply of intrigue or unpredictability. Counter to claims south of the border, the game in Scotland is alive and well and arguably far more blockbuster than its English cousin. Many outsiders harness their views on Scottish football exclusively through the exploits of its two famous Glasgow clubs, who have indeed historically cast a dominant shadow over the country. True, the almost soap-style drama of Celtic and Rangers’ ferocious rivalry certainly contributes heavily to Scotland’s footballing dynamic and, by extension, embeds itself into the very fabric of native society. However, those invested in the narrative of the Scottish game would swiftly point to a myriad of other tasty plotlines. …”
Football Paradise

The disappearance of Wee Willie McLean: Solving America’s oldest soccer mystery


February 5, 1946. The entrance to Mount Pleasant Mental Health Center in Henry County, Iowa scales a gentle grade; a long, wide driveway passing through rows of oak trees, past manicured lawns and flowerbeds. If you’ve never been here, you’d assume you were entering the grounds of a botanical garden, or maybe an elegant estate. Then the facility’s main building comes into view, a brick-and-concrete goliath that eventually consumes your entire field of vision. It is cold, dark and imposing. Function over form, a warehouse for the unwanted. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Willie McLean (soccer, born 1904)

UEFA Nations League: What to look out for on Matchday 2


Raheem Sterling, England
“The third edition of the UEFA Nations League has kicked off. The first matchday is done, with five more to come ahead of the final tournament in June 2023. UEFA.com picks out the big fixtures from the Matchday 2 encounters. …”
UEFA Nations League (Video)

For Ukraine the World Cup looked unthinkable. Now they’re 1 game away after spirited win over Scotland


“GLASGOW, Scotland — Ukraine are 90 minutes away from the World Cup. For a country that is fighting for its very existence following Russia’s invasion in February, to even think about the insignificance of qualifying for a football tournament is difficult to comprehend, but Ukraine’s 3-1 win against Scotland in their World Cup play-off semifinal on Wednesday sent a message to the world that theirs is a country of incredible spirit and resolve. …”
ESPN (Video)
Guardian: Ukraine players offer their suffering nation a moment of joy and clarity
Guardian: Ukraine deny Scotland on emotional night to set up playoff final with Wales

VAR in Scottish Premiership: What will it solve? What won’t it fix? Who will foot bill? When will it come into force?


“VAR has arrived in Scottish football. On Tuesday, the SPFL’s member clubs passed the motion to introduce video assistant referees to the Premiership from midway through next season — after the winter break for the World Cup finals in November and December. While VAR is, and almost certainly will continue to be, a divisive topic among supporters, all 12 of Scotland’s top-flight clubs enthusiastically supported its implementation in the league. Here is what has happened so far, and what comes next. …”
The Athletic

The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)

Scotland v England and the peculiarly divergent stance on football crowds


“At is not the case that followers of Scottish football gaze enviously at the Premier League. Camera phones capturing goal celebrations and public investment funds bearing gifts mean Scots revel in their own authenticity. It may be thud and blunder but it is our thud and blunder. In recent days, though, there have been wistful glances across the border. After Nicola Sturgeon, the Scotland first minister, implemented a limit of 500 people at outdoor sporting events the Scottish Professional Football League’s board took the unusually smart decision to expedite its top-flight winter break. At what traditionally is a hectic, joyous time it was deemed better to close the gates. …”
Guardian

Portugal on collision course with Italy after Qatar World Cup play-off draw


Italy and Portugal have been drawn in the same pathway for the European FIFA World Cup play-offs, meaning only one will be able to secure qualification for next year’s tournament in Qatar. Italy are the defending European champions, after beating England on penalties in the final of Euro 2020 in the summer. Portugal meanwhile won Euro 2016, overcoming France in Paris to win the tournament for the first time. But one — or both — will miss out on a place in Qatar after Friday’s play-off draw. …”
The Athletic

World Cup 2022: ranking the top 10 contenders a year before Qatar


“With just over a year to go until the World Cup kicks off, 12 teams have qualified alongside hosts Qatar. All four semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, while recent European champions Portugal and Italy still have more to do. With most of the big hitters now able to prepare for the tournament, we assess where they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins. …”
Guardian
The Athletic: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Where USMNT, Canada, Mexico and Panama stand with six matches left
World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter

World Cup 2022 qualification: Who will be in Qatar and who is in play-offs?


Gareth Southgate’s England are heading to Qatar 2022, while Wales and Scotland have a play-off place secured
“England have qualified for the 2022 World Cup finals while Wales and Scotland are heading to the play-offs along with some surprising names. European champions Italy and Portugal will also have to go through two rounds of play-off games next March after failing to win their respective groups. Heading to the World Cup so far are: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland. The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey are the three teams left who can still qualify automatically. The winners of each group secure a place at the World Cup, with the 10 runners-up joining two Nations League teams in the play-offs, where three further places are up for grabs. …”
BBC

Scotland 2 – 0 Denmark


“Scotland secured a seeded spot in the World Cup play-off semi-finals as goals from John Souttar and Che Adams stunned Denmark with a thrilling performance at Hampden Park. Steve Clarke’s Group F runners-up needed at least a point against the runaway leaders to give themselves a chance of a home draw. But centre-half Souttar headed home in his first Scotland game since being sent off in a 2018 defeat by Israel and striker Adams burst clear to settle growing nerves after 86 minutes. Scotland had lived dangerously in the closing stages before that breakaway goal secured a sixth competitive victory in succession for the first time since winning six Home Nations matches in a row between March 1928 and February 1930. …”
BBC
Guardian: Che Adams secures Scotland play-off seeding in superb win over Denmark

Andrew Watson: The ‘most influential’ black footballer for decades lost to history


Watson is also depicted in a mural at the site of the original Hampden Park
“There are two murals of black footballers facing one another across an alleyway in Glasgow. One helped shape football as we know it, the other is Pele. Andrew Watson captained Scotland to a 6-1 win over England on his debut in 1881. He was a pioneer, the world’s first black international, but for more than a century the significance of his achievements went unrecognised. Research conducted over the past three decades has left us with some biographical details: a man descended of slaves and of those who enslaved them, born in Guyana, raised to become an English gentleman and famed as one of Scottish football’s first icons. And yet today, 100 years on from his death aged 64, Watson remains something of an enigma, the picture built around him a fractured one. …”
BBC

World Cup roundup: Denmark thrash Moldova to keep up perfect record


Denmark thrash Moldova
Denmark maintained their 100% record in Group F, with a 4-0 win in Moldova. Andreas Skov Olsen opened the scoring before Simon Kjær added a penalty. Christian Norgaard and Joakim Mæhle were also on target. Austria won 2-0 in the Faroe Islands to keep up their slim hopes of overtaking Scotland, who beat Israel 3-2 in a Hampden Park thriller. First-half goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk gave Ukraine a 2-1 win over Finland in Group D. The West Ham forward Yarmolenko put the visitors ahead less than five minutes after kick-off when he drove home from 20 yards past the Finnish goalkeeper. Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki levelled for Finland in the 29th minute but Ukraine regained the lead minutes later with a goal from Yaremchuk. …”
Guardian

UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Poland end England’s winning streak; Spain, Germany notch victories


Poland 1, England 1
“…In a night of relatively low drama most of the big guns of European football eased to a further three points, not least Germany, who looked impressive in swatting aside Iceland 4-0. An early goal from Serge Gnabry set Hansi Flick’s side on course for a win that takes them four points clear in Group J before Antonio Rudiger, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner found the net, the latter only after wasting a string of presentable opportunities. After two games in which they dropped points the visit of Lithuania came at a good time for Italy with new Juventus striker Moise Kean netting a first-half brace. Their lead in Group C had been looking precarious after a draw against Switzerland but they had Northern Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to thank as he saved a penalty that meant Northern Ireland held the Swiss to a goalless draw in Belfast. …”
CBS Sports (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022 qualifying: Who is close to qualifying? Who are the surprise packages?
Guardian: Szymanski denies England as Poland snatch late draw after Kane’s opener
ESPN: England’s draw in Poland keeps Three Lions on track for Qatar 2022, but they’ll need complete performances to vie for World Cup

Euro 2020: our writers select their highs and lows from the tournament


“Italy’s performances and goals from Patrik Schick and Paul Pogba illuminated a wonderful championships. Sadly, some England supporters let the country down. Match of the tournament. Ed Aarons: It was going to take something to beat Spain’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Croatia after extra-time but the sequel on a crazy Monday evening was even better. Paul Pogba’s elaborate celebration having scored France’s third goal came back to haunt him as Switzerland scored twice in the last 10 minutes to force extra time before Kylian Mbappé missed from the spot to eliminate the star-studded world champions. …”
Guardian

EURO 2020: tactical trends


No team has pressed or had the ball as much as Spain but that did not help them beat Sweden in their opening game
“Thirty-six matches played, with 94 goals scored at an average of 2.61 per game. It is a ratio lower than the 2.93 recorded in last season’s UEFA Champions League, yet this is no surprise for the UEFA technical observers analysing the action at UEFA EURO 2020. Their reflections on the opening fortnight of action point to less risk-taking than in the European club competitions with a tendency towards three centre-backs and low blocks – arguably motivated by the wish to avoid early elimination. …”
UEFA (Video)
Tactical trends from the Euro 2020 group stages: What we’ve learned

The Case for a 32-Team Euros


Portugal found a way through to the round of 16.
“Thomas Vermaelen’s header hit the ground first and then rose before colliding with the post near the corner where it meets the crossbar. As the ball spun out, sideways toward the middle of the goal, Lukas Hradecky, the Finland goalkeeper, was still turning around. It was all happening in the blink of an eye. Instinctively, Hradecky reached out a hand to try to swat the ball away. In that instant, on his fingertips, a substantial portion of Euro 2020 hung. Had Hradecky been able to claw the ball away from his goal, away from danger, Finland might have been able to hang on, to keep a vaguely interested Belgium at bay, to qualify for the knockout stages of the first major tournament it has ever reached. Denmark, playing simultaneously in Copenhagen, might have been sent home. …”
NY Times

The Euro 2020 Group Stage Is Over: Here’s What We Learned


“With a couple of minutes to play in Budapest, the French midfielder Adrien Rabiot looked squarely at Sergio Oliveira, his Portuguese opponent, and advised him to back away. Like everyone else in the stadium, Rabiot had heard the news. The group stage of Euro 2020 was effectively over. Both France and Portugal were through to the knockout rounds. There was no need to run or to chase or to press. Now was the time for watching the clock. It had not, for either team, been a straightforward evening. The game had oscillated — Portugal led, then France, then Portugal struck back — and so had their fates, dependent to some extent on the outcome of the group’s other game, between Germany and Hungary in Munich. At one point or another, each of the four teams had believed they were going through. …”
NY Times

Analysed: Which Euro 2020 country matches which club side’s style?


“How are you finding the European Championship so far? Not missing club football at all? Or are you sitting on your couch lamenting the inferior standard of these international games, in between scrolling Twitter and replying to football journalists tweeting about Germany’s defensive system with ‘(insert name of sexy transfer target here) update?!?’ If you are, don’t worry. Major international tournaments are very different creatures from the European club season, for better and worse, and they’re not for everyone. Just ask Maurizio Sarri, who shocked journalists in January 2019 while Chelsea head coach when he admitted he didn’t watch a single minute of the previous summer’s World Cup because ‘there is not anything to learn from them’. …”
The Athletic

Euro 2020 power rankings: Italy lead the way after impressive group stage


“France and Belgium have been impressive but Italy are unbeaten in 30 and with a comfortable-looking last-16 tie. 1) Italy. The Roberto Mancini juggernaut rolls on. Three games, three wins, seven goals scored and none conceded in the group stage. Italy are unbeaten in 30 games, have not let in a goal for more than 1,000 minutes and beat Wales in their last group game having made eight changes. The introduction of Marco Verratti in that match added another layer to their game – he had been injured – and they are huge favourites against Austria. 2) France. The main question before the tournament was whether the reintroduction of Karim Benzema would destabilise the squad, but they won the group of death and the Real Madrid striker scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Portugal. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Euro 2020: the standout players from the 16 teams left in the tournament

What’s Wrong With England at Euro 2020?


Harry Kane, Czech Republic’s defender Vladimir Coufal
“Perhaps the most depressing thing about England’s 1–0 win over the Czech Republic Tuesday—a victory that clinched the group for the Three Lions in the opening round of the Euro Cup—was that England seemed to be trying. The gap in quality between the two teams was apparent, but that was less of a problem for the Czechs than the difference in intensity. England’s players were trying harder: pressing more intently, winning second balls, and showing a willingness to dribble past their direct opponents that the Czech players never did. The Czech offense went off like a damp firework. Even the statuelike Harry Kane nearly won some of his footraces with the Czech defenders. …”
Slate (Video)
Guardian: Set pieces, Kane and Covid curveballs – the big issues now facing England
Tactical Analysis: Czech Republic vs. England
Kane looked lost as England chances dried up – this was most disappointing game of Southgate era (June 19, 2021)

Modric magic ensures Croatia prolong Scotland’s major tournament woes as Tartan Army’s Euro 2020 hopes end


“They came to Hampden Park hoping for a night to remember, but in the end, Scotland‘s success-starved supporters had to make do with a goal they will never forget. Croatia’s 3-1 victory in Glasgow on Tuesday secured the 2018 World Cup finalists qualification for the round of 16, but it was Luka Modric‘s stunning second-half strike that ended Scottish dreams of an end to their perennial tournament misery. In 10 previous appearances at a major finals, either the World Cup or European Championship, Scotland were unable to progress beyond the group stage. …”
ESPN (Video)
BBC – Euro 2020: How Luka Modric’s genius for Croatia ended Scotland’s dreams
BBC – Croatia 3 Scotland 1

At Euro 2020, a Reminder That Good Can Be Great


Italy: unbeaten, but not unbeatable.
“Let’s start with a little intellectual exercise. A purely hypothetical, entirely subjective, ultimately inconclusive one, admittedly, but still: Now that each of the presumed contenders to win the European Championship has shown at least some of its hand, how competitive would any of them be if they were to be parachuted, as they are, into the Champions League? Instinctively, it feels as if France, at least, would do pretty well. A front line of Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé bears comparison to any attacking trident in the club game. …”
NY Times

England 0 Scotland 0: No impact from Kane, Scotland the better team, time to start Grealish?


“England struggled while Scotland shone as they drew 0-0 for the first time ever at Wembley in the 115th meeting between the two nations. The England captain Harry Kane again failed to have an impact and was subbed with 16 minutes to go, while Steve Clarke’s Scotland impressed, particularly in midfield where 20-year-old Billy Gilmour held his own on his first international start. There was plenty of clamour for Jack Grealish to be in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for this Euro 2020 group game but again the England manager chose to begin with the Aston Villa playmaker on the bench. Grealish replaced Phil Foden just after the hour but his cameo was not enough to inspire a breakthrough. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: My day with the Tartan Army (Video)
Guardian: Jack Grealish may not have all the answers but England need to find out
Guardian: Scotland’s Billy Gilmour catches the eye with star turn against England
BBC – England 0-0 Scotland: ‘Real hope for Scotland but a wake-up call for England’

Euro 2020 Power Rankings: France the Clear Favorite—but Then What?


“Five years removed from Portugal’s coronation just outside Paris, the next European Championship begins on Friday, and with it comes the quest for the 2016 host and runner-up to make amends and follow a World Cup title with another triumph—and for 23 other national sides to do something about it. France is as good if not better than it was when it lifted the World Cup trophy in Russia three summers ago, and after an extra year’s wait due to the pandemic, it’s out to confirm its status as the world and region’s preeminent team—it’s No. 2 FIFA world ranking notwithstanding. Before the competition begins, with Italy facing Turkey in Rome, we examine team form, ability and outlook based on the draw to rank the 24 contenders vying to be crowned European champion (group opponents listed in order of when they’ll play in the opening stage). …” SI – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian: At the Euros, winning teams can start badly. It’s how they respond that matters, ESPN – Euro 2020 preview: Picks, scouting reports, must-see games, biggest ‘upset’ teams and much more (Video)

How Euro 2020 Was Saved


“If Aleksander Ceferin has any say on the matter, there will never be another European soccer championship like the one that starts this week. And that decision has nothing to do with the coronavirus. Ceferin, the president of European soccer’s governing body, quickly listed the headaches that came with organizing this summer’s championship. Matches in 11 countries, originally 13, meant finding 11 cities and 11 stadiums capable of hosting them. It meant creating teams to run each site and arranging for dozens of hotels to house everyone who would go. But it also meant navigating legal jurisdictions and linguistic boundaries, tax laws and big politics as well as soccer politics, currency values and visa rules. And that was before the coronavirus made it all exponentially harder. …” NY Times, NY Times – Euro 2020: Schedule, How to Watch and More, UEFA Euro 2020 match schedule

Euro 2020: England and Spain Drop Big Names; France Adds One


“Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of four right backs included in England’s final 26-man roster for this summer’s European Championship as Manager Gareth Southgate trimmed his roster hours before the tournament deadline. But after one exhibition game, he was out again. Alexander-Arnold, a late inclusion in England’s team, withdrew on Thursday, a day after sustaining a thigh injury in a friendly match against Austria. England and Liverpool confirmed that the young defender was out. … Instead, all four players made the team — at least initially. England is in a group with Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic. If it reaches the final, it could play as many as six matches at Wembley Stadium in London. …” NY Times, W – UEFA Euro 2020, Euro 2020 squads: Every confirmed team for the 2021 tournament, Guardian – Euro 2020: your complete guide to all 622 players

‘It’s over, Jogi’: German press reacts to historic defeat by North Macedonia


“It had felt like a new and happier time. Since Joachim Löw announced he was standing down after the European Championship, his young and vibrant side had beaten Iceland and Romania convincingly to get their World Cup qualifying campaign off to the perfect start. The mood in the squad relaxed, they took on North Macedonia in Löw’s final World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night – and promptly lost 2-1. The feelgood factor that had been building up in the previous seven days was gone in an instant, replaced by questions about team tactics and selections and even a call for the national coach to leave his post immediately. Writing in Bild – in a piece headlined ‘It is over, Jogi’ – Matthias Brügelmann said: ‘This is the third historical debacle that Jogi Löw, after many successful years as national coach, is responsible for. There was the first elimination from the stage at a World Cup ever in Russia. There was the biggest defeat since 1931 with the 6-0 defeat against Spain. And now this 1-2 against North Macedonia, No 65 in the World Cup rankings.’ …”
Guardian, Guardian: Euro 2020 power rankings: Belgium back on top as Germany plummet, Guardian: North Macedonia inflict historic World Cup qualifying defeat on Germany, Guardian: Ronaldo on target in Portugal win

Uefa Nations League – as it stands: Who are the winners and losers following the opening rounds of group games?

“A goalless draw on the opening day of the tournament may not have been the result the suits in Nyon had wanted, but the point earned by France in Munich provided the world champions the foundation to build upon. Goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud in their second game, the 2-1 defeat of Holland, leaves Didier Deschamps’ side top ahead of their return leg against Germany in Paris next month.” Telegraph

Why the ‘greatest footballer in the world’ is buried in an Egyptian war cemetery

“England 1 Scotland 5. Saturday, 31 March 1928. Wembley. Att: 80,868. The spartan, light-coloured gravestone looks like any other in Fayid War Cemetery. Just one of hundreds arranged into formal, regimented rows on an incongruous patch of land on the western shore of Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake. There, at the mid point of the Suez Canal, lie men who died after serving in the Second World War. Men such as Major AS Jackson. The conflict was over by the time Jackson was killed on 15 November 1946. His end came after he lost control of a truck near his base in the Suez Zone, suffering serious head injuries. The 41-year-old died before he reached hospital. …” The Set Pieces

The Best Soccer Teams in History to Miss Out on Qualifying for the World Cup


France, 1994
“As World Cup qualification reaches its final stages, a number of major nations find themselves in danger of missing out on Russia 2018. As Argentina, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana struggle to make it, and with reigning African champion Cameroon already eliminated, we look back at the most shocking failures to qualify in World Cup history. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson

How a Scottish manager working in Wales ended up in charge of Juventus

“Matt Busby, Ally McCoist, Alex Neil and Lee McCulloch are just a few of the famous (and not so famous) footballers who have emerged from the small Scottish town of Bellshill. Sitting just 16km from the centre of Glasgow, Bellshill has produced more than its fair share of top level footballers given its modest population of just over 20,000. The town also gave us a football manager who went to Italy for one season and came home with a rather unfortunate record in the Turin derby.” Guardian

England vs. Scotland: 10 memorable matches

“… England 2-3 Scotland, April 15th 1967. Wembley Stadium, London. Six years on from the roasting they received at the hands of the Auld Enemy, Scotland once again pitched up at Wembley with a strong team in this Home Championship game that doubled as a European Championship qualifier. This time, though, they were expected to struggle against ten of the English XI (Jimmy Greaves replacing Roger Hunt) that were crowned world champions on the same pitch less than a year earlier.” Football Pink

James McCarthy: The Irish Hero who is a controversial figure in Scotland

“If you ever visit the Irish National Team’s website, you’ll notice one peculiar element to the FAI’s online shop. One entire section of the store is dedicated to Everton FC shirts and gear. Despite being an English club, Irish football fans follow Everton closely and have a fondness towards the club. This is because of the Irish players at Everton now and in the past, and Ireland’s connection to the city of Liverpool. Seamus Coleman, Darron Gibson, and formerly Aidan McGeady are some of the notable Irish stars who have played for Everton. But the most notorious Irishman at the Merseyside club is none other than rising star James McCarthy. This is because of the fact that he wasn’t born in Ireland, but their next door neighbors Scotland.” Outside of the Boot

New pretenders to the Scottish throne

“It’s a sign of the times up in Scotland when nobody seems all that bothered about one of the most newsworthy deals of the January transfer window. Rangers Football Club have finally found a near namesake of the Dutchman they’ve been singing about for decades. And this is no Pierre van Hoojidonk, or Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Young Billy King has joined the ranks at Ibrox, after decades of his namesake featuring in tattoos, verse, and T-shirts on the terraces. Billy King’s signing has been pushed out of the headlines by the performances of some of Scotland’s lesser lights and former giants rising up again to the froth of the Premier League.” Football Pink

A bumpy ride: Gordon Strachan and Scotland

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“Gordon Strachan has confirmed he will remain in charge of Scotland , signing a two-year extension to his contract as national manager. Here, BBC Sport reviews his near three-year spell in charge of the national team. Following the sacking of Craig Levein after just three wins from his 12 competitive matches in charge, the Scottish FA turned to Strachan to lift the national team and the country out of its latest despair.” BBC

Poland’s Robert Lewandowski: the man Scotland fear in Euro 2016 qualifier

“There was a time when Scottish football conjured up images of artistry, of neat triangles of passing, the ‘pattern-weaving’ approach. Not any longer. A century ago, Hungarian football was obsessed by trying to emulate the Rangers tourists of 1905; this past week has featured a series of Polish condemnations of Scotland’s supposed clogging. The message has been so consistent, it feels there must be policy behind it, a string of not especially subtle nudges to the referee, Viktor Kassai.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Tom English: Poland challenge next for fighting Scotland

“For Scotland, the sensible thing is to look forward in hope, but the irresistible urge is to look back in anger. The contrasting images of intensity and energy and goals against the world champion Germans on Monday night compared to the meek surrender in Georgia three days before is just the latest manifestation of Scotland being a footballing parody of itself. The fluctuation is a brand of torture that has been reduced to a fine art in Scotland, a form of water-boarding, just for football fans. The prevailing agony of the Scottish supporters leaving Hampden after the 3-2 loss to Germany might have taken the shape of the contention – ‘If only we’d played like that in Tbilisi we wouldn’t be in such a hole.'” BBC

Germany v Poland – The Water Battle of Frankfurt
“The plaque underneath the statue of Poland’s legendary national team coach, Kazimierz Górski, outside Warsaw’s new national stadium reads: ‘As long as the ball is in play, everything is possible.’ On the occasion the biggest match of Górski’s time in charge of the national team, whenever the ball was in play it would be repeatedly stuck in deep pools of rainwater.” backpagefootball

Graft, grit and Northern beauty

“Sir Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish, Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby, Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Howard Kendall, Don Revie, Sir Bobby Robson: it’s a long and impressive list, but far from an exhaustive one. The common thread that links them to one another? Yes, they are all British, but more specifically, they’re all from either the North East of England or Scotland. So what, I hear you mutter. … It’s my assertion that, as they did not inherit, at birth, the specific qualities and traits needed to stand out in the cutthroat world of football but must possess them in order to break into that sphere in the first place, then it must be their upbringing and the environment of their formative years that defined them. So, it is to the North East of England and Scotland that we must look for those ingredients that shaped the young men who would eventually become legends.” Foofball Pink

Celtic cousins – How are Ireland and Scotland the same yet different?

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“At the end of a long, often arduous, domestic season for most of Europe, only in UEFA would it make sense to schedule a run of Euro 2016 qualifiers for this coming weekend, 12-14 June. Yet so it comes to pass that Ireland and Scotland clash in Dublin this evening with a huge amount at stake in Qualification Group D.” backpagefootball

Scotland fight on and dream on after messy Dublin display
“You counted them from the first minute of the Euro 2016 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland – the Scotland blunders, the moments of uncertainty, the epidemic of misplaced passes that took hold of Gordon Strachan’s team for 45 minutes. You watched some of it in disbelief and some of it in anger and confusion. Where did this weakness come from? Who stole Scotland’s serenity?” BBC

Britain’s “other” national team: Ellan Vannin

“The four national teams of the United Kingdom are supposedly England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Each with its own FIFA affiliated side, these nations have spanned generations and produced some wonderful footballers, and in the case of England have even won the FIFA World Cup, triumphing by a margin of 4-2 over West Germany in 1966 – a fond memory to those who witnessed that historic match.” Football Pink

Euro 2016: Crucial week for UK & Ireland teams on road to France

“England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland all return to international action this week – and all have realistic hopes of qualifying for Euro 2016. The five nations have never qualified for the same major international tournament before but, after a four-month break, they can all enhance their prospects of reaching next summer’s tournament in France with positive results. Why is there such hope? For a start, the finals has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams. But a solid start from all five sides to their qualification groups has also offered encouragement. Could it finally be that Wales and Northern Ireland play in their first European Championship? Can Scotland compete in a first major tournament since 1998? This week’s matches will represent the midway point in qualifying, so just how realistic is the prospect of all five making it through to France?” BBC

When all the off-field distractions are set aside, Ireland to edge a tight encounter

“This was a fixture that, from the outset, seemed destined to be overshadowed by events off the field rather than the actual football being played. There was always bound to be a hostile reception for Glasgow-born Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy on their first visit to the city in the green of Ireland – though Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, to his credit, did his best to defuse the situation by calling for a ‘pantomime’ atmosphere. McCarthy’s withdrawal owing to a persistent hamstring injury – the same injury that kept him out of the previous games with Gibraltar and Germany – has defused the situation somewhat, though McGeady is likely to receive a mixed reception at the stadium he elated for years with Celtic. Wednesday night’s bizarre scenes whereupon a known associate of Jack Charlton managed to do himself a mischief, which required hospital treatment, while making some sort of elaborate protest against Roy Keane has added an uncalled-for element of the bizarre.” backpagefootball

Gordon Strachan v Martin O’Neill: More than Celtic connections
“Football followers with a romantic notion could be forgiven for finding themselves overwhelmed by Scotland’s meeting with the Republic of Ireland on Friday. Martin O’Neill, if anyone needs reminding, returns to Celtic Park, a stadium where he was, and still is, worshipped for the success he brought to the club. He will come up against his successor as Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, who, though not held in quite the same regard by the supporters as O’Neill, nevertheless achieved a great deal in his time in charge.” BBC

Lament For A Lost Scotland

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“Only those who have to take off their shoes when they want to count to twenty will ever believe Scotland will one day win the World Cup. There is more chance of Ronald Reagan being voted Man of the Year by the Russians than Scotland achieving total global success. This line of thinking, of course, will shock no one. Just over five years ago Ally MacLeod brainwashed the Tartan Army into actually believing the world was about to be conquered in Argentina and Bruce Rioch was only a fortnight or so away from claiming a very expensive and coveted chunk of gold. Let’s not dwell on that nightmarish episode. Scotland’s balloon wasn’t so much punctured as blown to smithereens. There was an eruption of eggs on the faces of the Scottish fans who genuinely believed Scotland would overcome all the obstacles that stood in the way of their heroes. Peru and Iran changed that state of mind.” In Bed With Maradona (Video)

World War One: Sporting stories of bravery recalled 100 years on

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Heart of Midlothian started the 1914-1915 season with a 2-0 victory over Celtic after giving their all.
“They were the sporting stars of yesteryear. Captains, team-mates, local heroes. Many of them went from the playing field to the battlefields of World War One, never to return. Monday marks the 100th anniversary of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany. It was at 23:00 on 4 August 1914 that Britain entered into one of the costliest conflicts in history, and the fighting continued until 11 November 1918. Here, BBC Sport recalls some notable stories – from whole teams who joined the armed forces to a modern-day international inspired by his ancestors’ wartime deeds.” BBC

Hearts, the team that went to war for Britain
“On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Eleven days later a full house at Tynecastle cheered Heart of Midlothian to victory over Celtic, the defending champions beaten by the young pretenders of the Scottish game. War seemed a long way off on that summer’s afternoon; somewhere for a foreign field, not the football field.” Independent

Small-town Eibar to be punished for their success?

“At Ipurua, the mist rolls down the green hillside, across the roofs and right over the pitch. The town of Eibar has a population of 27,000 people and sits halfway up the valley of the River Ego in the Basque Country, northern Spain. At the top of the town, up steep streets, stands Ipurua, the picturesque home ground of Second Division club Eibar. It is surrounded by mountains to the north and south and the best view may just be the one from the two blocks of flats that tower over the stand. Not that they have to tower much to look over the short, squat side of this stadium.” ESPN

Attack vs. defence: the eternal Scottish quandary

“‘We need the three points; we have to go for this.’ But what does going for it really mean for a smaller nation like Scotland? Should we go for it at all? The benefits and pitfalls of giving up on conservation and adopting an attacking style are hotly debated up and down the country. It can be a highly dangerous approach when you do not have the resources to cope with the other team’s reply. Conversely, it can help solve a great Scottish problem – the need for goals.” Backpage Football

Football violence: a view from around the world

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Spartak Moscow fans displaying a Nazi flag during a game at Shinnik Yaroslavl.
“Brazil: violence around games on the rise. Brazil ends 2013 with a record in football violence deaths. It was a miracle that nobody died in the festival of thuggery that took place on 8 December at the Atlético Paranaense v Vasco de Gama match in Joinville, during the last round of the Campeonato Brasileiro, whose shocking images were beamed all around the world. That, however, did not prevent Brazilian football finishing its 2013 season with the saddest of milestones: the 30 deaths in football-related incidents this year is the highest number in the history of the game in the country. What’s more worrying is that fatal cases have been rising steadily in the past few years. …” Guardian

World Cup – and outbreak of supporter violence – link Brazil and Russia
“In six months’ time the World Cup will land in the home of joga bonito clad in a Fifa-approved wrapping of sun, sea and samba. But the dark side of the beautiful game in Brazil was in evidence earlier this month, when images of running battles between fans of Atlético Paranaense and Vasco da Gama shocked the watching world. The game was being held at a neutral ground in Joinville due to previous clashes between fans of the two clubs, but within 10 minutes Globo was broadcasting close-up footage of supporters repeatedly stamping on the heads of their rivals and chasing one another around the stadium bowl. Following a long interregnum, the fighting was eventually broken up by armed security firing rubber bullets into the crowds and an army helicopter landing on the pitch, but not before several fans were seriously injured.” Guardian

World Cup qualifiers: Romelu Lukaku sends Belgium to Brazil

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“Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium beat Croatia 2-1 to secure their place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Striker Lukaku, on loan at Everton from Premier League rivals Chelsea, scored twice in the first half, with Niko Kranjcar grabbing a late consolation. Belgium were joined by Germany and Switzerland in qualifying for next year’s tournament. Germany defeated the Republic of Ireland 3-0, while Switzerland won 2-1 in Albania.” BBC

England v Scotland: after 141 years of rivalry, clash must rediscover its edge

“When you start at the very top, the only way to go is down. And the famous England-Scotland football fixture has been slowly but steadily losing its cachet for, ooh, nearly 141 years now. The first match between the countries – a goalless draw at the West of Scotland Cricket Club in Partick in November 1872 – was also the first international in football history, so by definition it was a summit meeting between the best teams in the world. Stovepipe hats off, everyone.” Guardian

Nationality of players in the Premier League and Football League

“The nationality of players within the Premier League and Football League is a subject I regularly return to. It’s not because I’m a believer that foreign players are a blight on our national sport, but because I find the exotic nature of the nationalities represented an interesting discussion point. If you believe that the English national side suffers due to the number of foreign players in its league you should probably look closer to home for the players who are blocking the way of Englishmen as it’s Irishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen who make up the vast majority of “foreign” players on English clubs’ books.” Spirit of Mirko

How is wrestling at corners interpreted in different European leagues?

“… If you are English and ask anybody in Russia about wrestling at corners, the discussion inevitably turns to a World Cup qualifier in Ljubljana in 2001. With the score at 1-1, Slovenia won a last-minute corner. The referee, Graham Poll, twice prevented it being taken to warn Russian defenders about shirt holding. When the corner finally came in, Viacheslav Daev tussled with Zeljko Milinovic and Poll, his patience gone, gave a penalty. While shirt-pulling and wrestling certainly goes on in the Russian league, the hangover from that decision means that it is seen as very much a British obsession. Jonathan Wilson” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

2012-13 Scottish Premier League

“This post is a continuation of my recent new category, ‘Eng-Map/Attendance/Kit Badges’, which is now called ‘Engl. & Scot. – Map/Attendance/Kit Badges’. I decided to open up the category to include Scottish clubs because in my first post in this category, {which was on the 2012-13 Premier League here}, I mentioned Celtic and Rangers right off the bat (in the third paragraph in the above link). And I don’t have any other category which includes both English and Scottish clubs, so I thought I should have at least one. The essence of this style of map is the depiction of facsimiles of each club’s current home jersey badges, and those badge-facsimiles can be seen at the top of the map page (with the clubs placed in alphabetical order). From Historical Football Kits, ‘Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League 2012 – 2013 [the kits of all 12 Scottish Premier League clubs]‘. billsportsmaps

Barcelona’s bogey team?

“Celtic made waves across Europe with their Champions League group stage win over Barcelona. While the result was a notable upset, it was in keeping with the Catalan side’s decidedly average record against teams from Scotland. Curiously, in 18 contests Barca have won six, drawn five and now lost seven against Scottish opposition. The Bhoys’ recent triumph was their second against the side from the Nou Camp, following on from a first-leg win in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup which helped them progress to the last eight of the competition. Back in season 1960/61 meanwhile, Hibernian’s 3-2 victory at Easter Road clinched a 7-6 aggregate win in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup quarter-finals. However, when it comes to taming Barcelona, one Scottish team have a record that many bigger clubs can only dream of.” World Soccer

Hamilton Academicals: a template for the future of Scottish football?

“Craig Levein. Judging by how the post-game talk was dominated by whether the Scottish FA should replace him or not when Scotland lost to Belgium in the World Cup qualifying stage, a defeat that left them bottom of their group with just two points, you would think that pointing at the manager was all that was needed to identify the reasons behind this dire situation.” World Soccer

Hamilton Academical: The Future Of Scottish Football Is Here

“Craig Levein. Judging by how the post-game talk was dominated by whether the Scottish FA should replace him or not when Scotland lost to Belgium in the World Cup qualifying stage, a defeat that left them bottom of their group with just two points, you would think that pointing at the manager was all that was needed to identify the reasons behind this dire situation. Yet, for all Levein’s defects and mistakes, the fault lines of Scottish football lie much deeper than the manager’s role. For a nation that once produced world class players like Kenny Dalglish and Dennis Law, Scotland now struggles to produce players who are even remotely close to that level. There are many reasons for that, yet one of them has to be the lack of vision shown by clubs. Few have dared to be innovative; fewer still have been brave enough to build their teams around the players coming through their system.” In Bed With Maradona

Six Managers Better For Scotland Than Craig Levein


Gordon Strachan
“At the time of writing, Scotland prepare to face Belgium as part of a World Cup qualifying campaign already in tatters after dire draws with Serbia and Macedonia and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Wales. Craig Levein’s coat hangs on the shakiest peg at Hampden Park, and only a remarkable result in Belgium could possibly save him – even that may not be enough. Scotland’s plight is deep-rooted: not so long ago they became the first ever nation to qualify for five consecutive World Cups but with the exception of the odd respectable if ultimately futile campaign, they’ve since slid ever backwards.” Sabotage Times

Is Silva Spain’s Messi in disguise?


“Just less than a month ago Spain lined up to play for them a dead rubber European Championship qualifier against Scotland. Even amongst the Scottish media and fanbase – despite the game being very much a live match in Scotland’s quest to seal a play-off place – the pre-match talk was of how many the World Champions would win by and which of his array of talented stars Vicente Del Bosque would field.” Spanish Football