At the World Cup in Argentina 1978, Scotland’s team was brimming with talent with the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Archie Gemmill and Joe Jordan in the squad making them fifth favourites with the bookies to lift the Jules Rimet trophy just behind hosts Argentina, Brazil, West Germany and Holland.
However, it seemed that before the tournament had even got going the whole Scotland squad was in turmoil and disarray. After Don Masson missed a penalty in the 3-1 loss to Peru in the opening game he never appeared again, Willie Johnson failed a drugs test due to his hey fever medication and was sent home. Apparently, Archie Gemmill was supposed to give the urine sample but was too dehydrated, so Archie asked Willie to step in. After the Peru defeat, Scotland’s stars couldn’t get past Iran, only drawing the match and the pressure from the Tartan Army was piling on.
All this meant that going into the last group game the fifth favourites needed to win by three clear goals to have any chance of going through to the Semi-Finals. The problem is, they we’re up against the mighty Oranje, in the new Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza. This was a Netherlands side that had been in the World Cup Final four years earlier and although they didn’t have the mighty Johan Cruyff they still had Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens and Johnny Rep at their disposal.
Scotland had a wonderful blue Umbro home shirt at this tournament with World Cup embroidery around the national crest, which was used in the match against the Dutch. Holland lined up in their white Adidas away kit, which was strange given the lack of orange on the Scotland strip.
Scotland flew out of the blocks and needed goals. They rattled the woodwork, had penalty shouts turned down and put the ball in the net twice only for the goals to be disallowed. And then came the sucker punch. With 34 minutes on the clock Rob Rensenbrink put Holland 1-0 up from the spot, and it looked like an upwards struggle for even the most optimistic amongst the Scotland fans. It looked like Scotland would go into the break a goal behind until Souness played a diagonal cross up to the imposing Joe Jordan who managed to steer a header into the path of Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish, who rifled the ball into the net. 1-1 at the break.
The second half was eventful right from the start and after just two minutes had elapsed another Joe Jordan knock-down caused confusion in the box and Graeme Souness was brought down in the Dutch penalty area. Penalty to Scotland, 2-1.
Fast forward to the 69th minute, the minute the game turned on its head. Archie Gemmill picked up the ball on the right side of the penalty area and slalomed his way through three or four on rushing Dutch defenders before slotting the ball past Jan Jongbloed. One of the greatest goals in World Cup history was scored on that day. 3-1 to Scotland. Could Scotland do the unthinkable.
The hard fought two goal lead and optimism amongst the crowd was soon over as Holland pulled one back through legend Johnny Rep just three minutes after Gemmill’s wonder goal. 3-2. The chance of Scotland making it through to the last four ended in that moment and the score remained the same up until the final whistle.
Before this game against Holland, Scotland were deemed a national disgrace but this tie, although was to be their last at the tournament, won back some pride. The BBC probably got it spot on with the comment “Scotland can at least go home and look people in the face”
Scotland: Alan Rough, Stuart Kennedy, Willie Donachie, Bruce Rioch, Tom Forsyth, Martin Buchan, Archie Gemmill, Asa Hartford, Joe Jordan, Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish.
Subs: Jim Blyth, Derek Johnstone, Lou Macari, John Robertson, Kenny Burns.
Holland: Jan Jongbloed, Wim Suurbier, Wim Rijsbergen, Ruud Krol, Jan Poortvliet, Johan Neeskens, Wim Jansen, Johnny Rep, Rene van der Kerkhof, Willy van der Kerkhof, Rob Rensenbrink.
Subs: Piet Schrijvers, Piet Wildschut, Johan Boskamp, Dick Nanninga, Ernie Brandts.
Written by Greg @OldDaysFootball