Typical ScotlandDate: Sunday, 5th Jun 2022
We should be playing this evening against Wales. We should be hoping and praying for a victory to take us to our first World Cup Finals since 1998. We should be seeing an infiltration of Scots descend upon Cardiff for tonight`s crucial Play-Off Final match. Why aren`t we surprised that this hasn`t happened? It`s just `Typical Scotland`, isn`t it?!
It was never going to be easy, qualifying for Qatar 2022. But the dream was always alive and the flame hadn`t went out – until Wednesday evening. We navigated a really difficult group during the Qualification phase and obtaining a Play-Off spot was probably as good as we could have hoped for when our quest to reach Qatar began.
And then the draw was made – Ukraine at Hampden. Being at home gave confidence to the Tartan Army that we could overcome a really good side in a one-off clash. Some even viewed the Play-Off Final away to the winners of Wales or Austria even more difficult and tricky. And then the War on Ukraine began; the Russians invaded and the Play-Off Semi-Final was – quite rightly – put on hold. Would the game ever be played?
It felt like `Typical Scotland`, if they were to receive a free pass to the Final Play-Off due to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, to then lose out to Wales or Austria.
I think it became a relief that the game was finally on and the build-up to a real emotional occasion can begin. It felt like, if we were going to qualify, we would do it fairly and squarely. Hampden sold-out within hours of tickets going on-sale, the expectations were high, the demand was higher, the excitement was indescribable, that Qatar 2022 was so close yet so far.
As game-day drew closer, more and more dissenting voices questioned whether Scotland should even be playing Ukraine given the situation. Isn`t there a way to allow Ukraine to qualify regardless of what happens in the Play-Offs many thought. There was a real divide and it felt like the whole World was on Scotland`s shoulders, willing us to lose.
The emotions of the National Anthems didn`t phase Ukraine, as they started brightly. You could argue this was to be expected, the adrenaline pumping would spur them on, but Scotland knew they just had to find a way to keep their heads and minds focused on the job in hand. Unfortunately, this was to be the case. Despite numerous warnings, Ukraine took the lead to silence the Tartan Army.
It was a deserved lead, it had been 30 minutes of poor football, with the players looking a yard slower, mentally and physically, while being dragged out of position all over the park before the visitors exploited the gaps. It just felt like a `Typical Scotland` performance.
A change or two was the Half-Time requirement, and the fans got their wish, with Ryan Christie coming on for Lyndon Dykes. The formation and game-plan seemed very similar however and the Ukrainians weren`t for allowing us any opportunities to turn the tide. There was an air of inevitability around the next goal.
A quick-fire goal by the Scots and it was game-on; another strike by the visitors and it was going to be a long-way back for the men in Blue & White. And when, just four minutes into the Second-Half, Ukraine got their second goal, once again, it just felt like `Typical Scotland`.
After all the hype, after getting a whole country onside and feeling like something special was going to happen, the entire performance was flat and completely dampened the spirits of a nation. And there looked no way back; we couldn`t get the ball and when we did, we couldn`t keep it for long enough to penetrate their back-line.
The one time we did create a half-chance, the man we all wanted the ball to fall to inside the 6-yard box, unchallenged – John McGinn – did happen... would you believe it, he`s missed! He put his header wide of the post when it looked a certain avenue back into the contest for the hosts. Again, `Typical Scotland`.
With 11 minutes to go, a deflected Callum McGregor strike somehow found its way over the line and the comeback was on. A nation believed again. A `Typical Scotland` tactic of leaving it late and doing it the hard way seemed on the cards. An equaliser takes the match to Extra-Time, probably something a tiring Ukrainian side didn`t want.
We through the kitchen sink and more inside the final 10 minutes, but there was no fairytale ending for Steve Clarke`s men. A counter-attacking third goal sealed our fate deep into stoppage time, to make it 3-1 to Ukraine. We had came so close, but once again so far from reaching the World Cup Finals. It was another campaign of glorious failure! It was just `Typical Scotland`.
But we move on, to the Nations League as we look to kick-on once again as we look ahead to the European Championships of 2024. Will the Scots make it to their second consecutive Euros?
Or will it just be another day where we all look at each other, laugh and say `Typical Scotland`?!!?