I missed much of the build up to this game because I was mildly obsessed with the photograph that accompanied many of Alex McLeish’s unveiling news stories. You know the one where he is at the side of the Hampden pitch, holding a Scotland top, but his name is printed on the front? Why is his name printed on the front? Why does he look so glaiket? Has it all been an elaborate rouse and Eck (to his friends [of which I regard self to be one]), who is no doubt independently wealthy, has decided to become the shirt sponsor of the national team and has left the management to a progressive candidate (Graeme Souness, anyone?)? I google the image and notice his unveiling picture from the first time. He is standing with Watson and Aitken and they are all holding a shirt with ‘McLeish’ on the back. What does it all mean?!?!
I awake from the fever dream and realise that the game at a half full (what can I say, I’m an optimist) Hampden is nearing kick-off and I wonder how I got myself into this. I hate international football! Can’t we just go back to endless border wars between nation states? That was much less tedious.
Perhaps I volunteered to write this review as I fondly remember rushing home from school as a 7-year-old to watch Scotland v Costa Rica at Italia ’90. What do you mean we have lost to a country I didn’t know existed? What do you mean this will be a basis for a lifetime of disappointment? What do you mean I have wild eyes like Toto Schillaci? (Incidentally, Costa Ricans are now seen as one of the happiest people in the world. Coincidence? )
Or maybe I offered to write this as a means to impress Christian. Show that I’m eager. Show him I’m the original Hard G (OG, if you will).
Off to a homoerotic start.
I check the time on my illegal stream (edgy), assuming it will be the 85th minute or so, but there is no clock. Cos the game hasn’t started. Christ, I’m going to annex Austria or some shit.
Looking at the starting line-up and seeing there were no Celts was, admittedly, a further blow. I tried to console myself with Andrew Robertson and thought about how If Watty Smith had got the gig we could have seen two left backs in the same team, KT joining Andy to form a modern day Broadfoot and Whittaker (note: as I googled the 2008 UEFA Cup final to reacquaint myself with that dream team I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that the ‘2008 UEFA Cup final riots’ Wikipedia page was the second result – it’s the little things, like an Alsatian chewing on an ankle).
Oh and of course Scott McTominay started. Eck (football friend) was no fool and like Sebastian Bear-McClard marrying Emily Ratajkowski at the first sign of willingness, the big man capped McTominay so hard that he near split in two.
Scotland started off in a fairly tidy manner. Unless something terrible happened in the first two mins cos I missed the first two minutes while googling Emily Ratajkowski’s husband’s name.
There were pretty passing squares between the likes of McTominay, Cairney and McDonald, but it was all fairly pedestrian and also restricted to the Scotland half. When they did attempt a more direct method it was a woefully under hit pass that hung Robertson out to dry.
The consequences were not direct, but a few phases of play later, that blossomed from the counter attack with Robertson out of position, resulted in Costa Rica winning a corner, allowing them a sustained period of time in Scotland’s final third, and culminating in the away team scoring the opener.
And it was a Sunderland player. The shame.
But things started to look up when I realised Gamboa was playing. I mean it’s not like he’s a Celtic player, but he’s at least hoop adjacent.
And then Malky Mackay was pictured in the stand sitting next to Jose Mourinho, perhaps asking if there were any gays in Portugal. It was all very exciting. International fitba, eh?
Spain went one up in Germany and I questioned my life choices. Bet there’s not someone called Oli McBurnie playing in that game.
I realise I’m staring blankly at the screen and haven’t blinked for a long time. I worry that my contact lenses are drying up and will pop out when I eventually do blink. I try to ease my eye lids down. The right one pops out.
I think I’m going to buy a drum kit. Have always felt that I’ve got natural rhythm.
The camera stops on McTominay. I swear I can see a lone tear of regret.
Thirty five minutes in and it looks like Scotland have finally developed a plan – kick the ball ahead of Robertson and hope he catches it. If anyone in the team could weight a pass, then perhaps he would catch one or two. Game is crying out for a CalMac. Or a Christie. Armstrong. Maybe Forrest. Hendry.
Tam Müller has equalised against Spain. Bet the games a cracker.
Callum Paterson just blocked a really hard cross with his thigh and is pretending it wasn’t painful. Sounded like a Mitre mouldmaster to the face on a winter’s day.
Half-time. Thank fuck. The joy of Hayley McQueen in the studio is more than tempered by the sight of duo masterminds, Kris Boyd and Barry Ferguson. Bet the German game doesn’t have gobshites in the studio
Have decided to do the half-time player ratings in the form of emojis:
McGregor – :shrug:
Robertson – :aubergine:
McKenna – :shrug:
Hanley – :shrug:
Mulgrew – :indifferent face:
Paterson – :angry cat:
McDonald – :shrug:
Ritchie – :shrug:
Cairney – :shrug:
McTominay – :Munch’s Scream cat:
McBurnie – :jobby with face:
No subs at half time. Eck is right to ensure than our wonderful momentum is not disrupted. Every time Crocker says ‘Cairney’ I hear ‘Tierney’ and like George Costanza at the massage parlour – it moves. The second half tactic appears to be for Charlie ‘quarterback’ Mulgrew to punt the ball high to Callum Paterson and hope that he can head into the goal from 40 yards away. Such majestic football. I think this game is going to change Mourinho’s whole view of football. You’re welcome Man Utd fans!
Timmy Alert! CalMac and Armstrong get stripped. Game. On. England go 1 up on Holland and McTominay has an existential crisis as he leaves the pitch with Cairney.
Scotland finally start to create chances in the game and it is clear that turning the burner up on timminess is very much the reason. Ritchie and Robertson go close and I swear I can see Ritchie mouth to CalMac – thank you for making me both a better player and a better man.
Armstrong – :aubergine:
McGregor – :aubergine:
Phillips – :shrug:
McGinn – :aubergine:
Murphy – :jobby with face:
Ian Crocker just speaks the line ‘dawn of a new era under Alex McLeish’ and I make a soft moan. There are, however, some feint bits of hope: Ritchie looks useful, McBurnie could be a nuisance in a Kyle Lafferty depressing kinda way and Robertson is obviously a wonderful player. McTominay has potential, but didn’t show much tonight. He is probably suffering from culture shock.
Game over. Boos fill the stadium. 1-0 again. I am overcome with a feeling of deep pleasure. But it doesn’t last long. That was garbage and I feel like I need a shower. From the diarrhoea football to the shitty atmosphere in a half-full ‘stadium’, where all you can hear is some bawhum with an air horn and a plethora of school kids, who no doubt were bribed with free tickets, scream ‘Scotland’ with their annoying pre-pubescent voices.
When I hear Hayley tell me that I’m going to get the thoughts of Kris Boyd and Barry Ferguson, I quickly turn over and realise that Germany were wearing their amazing new away kit. Cheers, 90 Minute Cynics. Wanks.