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Leave aside television, the telephone and penicillin and Scotland is at its most inventive when it comes to finding new ways to muck up reaching the knockout stages of major tournaments. So, this time in Munich… let’s start with a bang!

Fifty years ago this Friday evening, June 14, 1974, Scotland played the first match in a major international tournament on German soil and won.

That’s a bigger problem than it sounds. Wind back the calendar to their first ever World Cup final defeat to Austria and the national team have consistently blown their lines on opening night.

They played eight World Cups and reached the European Championships three times before. That’s a total of eleven tournaments and they have only won their first match twice. The first was against mighty Zaire, the second against New Zealand.

This is important because the opening skirmish of tournament football sets the tone. If you win, the monkey is taken off the back. Losing and game two is like walking a tightrope blindfolded. One more slip and it could be curtains.

Scotland have never been very good at getting the ground going. Never a very good point, if truth be told. You don’t have to be one of Steve Clarke’s negative Normans to recognize the historical reality of the team’s performance at major tournaments.

In total, the men’s national team has played 32 matches at the World Cup and European Championships, winning only six of them. A win rate of 18.75 percent is sad and all too often the die is cast on opening night.

Head coach Steve Clarke has delivered his message to his Scotland players

Head coach Steve Clarke has delivered his message to his Scotland players

Scotland's players are being put to the test ahead of Friday night's opener

Scotland's players are being put to the test ahead of Friday night's opener

Scotland’s players are being put to the test ahead of Friday night’s opener

The Scots have been warmly welcomed to Germany, but they need to convert games into points

The Scots have been warmly welcomed to Germany, but they need to convert games into points

The Scots have been warmly welcomed to Germany, but they need to convert games into points

Many will tell you that the match against Germany doesn’t matter that much. Clarke wants four points from three games and that is a perfectly achievable goal against Switzerland and Hungary, even if his team loses the first game.

That attitude is fine if Scotland is happy to be the country that puts parties before points. If they are just happy to be there and pose for selfies on the pitch, what happens in Munich is irrelevant.

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If there is any real ambition to reach the second stage of a major international tournament for the first time ever, they must clearly realize the importance of – at least – taking a point from the Allianz Arena. Qualifying becomes a lot easier if they do that.

Argentina 1978 was the pinnacle of opening night cock-ups. Joe Jordan scored the opening goal against a Peruvian manager, Ally MacLeod, who had not bothered to watch in person.

Don Masson missed a penalty for 2-0 and the brilliant Teofilo Cubillas grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck as Peru won 3-1. A team tipped to win the World Cup returned to a hotel with no water in the pool and if the Tartan Army had gotten them that night they would have thrown them in anyway.

Mexico ’86 brought Denmark an opening night with a defeat. And when Scots of a certain age wake up sweating in the middle of the night, it has nothing to do with the onset of middle age. They have nightmares about that defeat against Costa Rica in the first match of Italia ’90.

Tom Boyd’s own goal against Brazil in France ’98 summed up what happens once the curtain goes up and the spotlight goes down. Scots everywhere are programmed to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

The last time Scotland played in an opening match in a final, a Tom Boyd own goal handed eventual finalists Brazil a 2-1 win in France 98

The last time Scotland played in an opening match in a final, a Tom Boyd own goal handed eventual finalists Brazil a 2-1 win in France 98

The last time Scotland played in an opening match in a final, a Tom Boyd own goal handed eventual finalists Brazil a 2-1 win in France 98

It’s illogical to judge the current team by that standard. If failure were a hereditary condition, Clarke’s team would never have won that penalty shoot-out in Serbia in 2020. They would not have won all five of their opening matches in qualifying. They would never have gone to Cyprus and scored three goals in the first half. They would have found a way to ruin their hopes of reaching Germany at all.

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Scotland’s mental scars have nothing to do with these players, it’s all down to fans of a certain generation.

Some of us grew up accepting that there had been an accident with the stones. Even as they won the opening match, another disaster loomed.

When Kenny Dalglish, Joe Jordan and Denis Law played against Zaire in ’74, Willie Ormond could not have mustered more firepower if he had rolled Mons Meg onto the Dortmund pitch. All they had to show for that were two goals from Peter Lorimer and Jordan.

Urban myth has it that the Scots took their feet off the gas pedal against a team of no-hopers. They emerged from the World Cup unbeaten after Yugoslavia hammered nine goals past the same opponents. There was more to it than that.

When money disappeared from Zaire’s player pool, a strike was averted when FIFA intervened. The African champions were placed under house arrest by their own security forces, smoked and drank more than they should have, and went into Yugoslavia 3-0. Twenty minutes earlier, the coach replaced the first-choice goalkeeper with a man of 1.80 meters tall. He scored a further six goals and Scotland crashed on goal difference.

Even the best dark blue team in living memory did not do better. When Spain ’82 arrived, Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness, Dalglish and John Robertson had already amassed a glittering array of European Cup winners medals. They were the Abba of Scotland squads.

Despite putting five goals past New Zealand in the opener, disaster struck in the final match against the Soviet Union and they crashed out on goal difference. Again.

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If there is a doom-laden fatalism among older fans, it is based on cold, hard experiences. Leaving aside the television, the telephone and the penicillin, Scotland is the most inventive when it comes to finding new ways to ruin qualification for the knockout stages of an international tournament.

It’s not really fair to level that accusation at Andy Robertson and Co. Although the last Euros were disappointing, the events of Argentina ’78 or France ’98 are as relevant to Billy Gilmour or Scott McTominay as the Cuban Missile Crisis or the shooting of JFK. . All that fear belongs to generations like mine, who grew up fearing the worst and – more often than not – turned out to be astute judges.

The Scots will perform on Friday evening in the impressive Allianz Arena, the home of Bayern Munich

The Scots will perform on Friday evening in the impressive Allianz Arena, the home of Bayern Munich

The Scots will perform on Friday evening in the impressive Allianz Arena, the home of Bayern Munich

Despite the PTSD of the past, nothing beats Scotland’s hope and excitement at another final. A country polarized by club football, politics and religion will come closer together for at least a fortnight.

The only thing worse than being mocked is being ignored. For too long the national football team has been mediocre, and on nights like this the Scots shake off the cloak of invisibility and feel relevant again.

Even if it’s just for one night, this match against Germany puts the national team front, left and center of Planet Football for the first time in years and for the tens of thousands of fans who gather in Munich, it’s a fun place to be .

A new generation of players has the chance to confound negative Northmen everywhere by writing a positive new chapter in the national team’s history.

If the 50th anniversary of the last meaningful victory on German soil isn’t an omen, then God knows what is.

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