“WE MIGHTA took the long way. We knew we’d get there someday.”

It is probably unlikely that Shania Twain was predicting the fortunes of Scotland’s male international football team when she co-wrote You’re Still The One.

However, Scotland certainly took the long way to get to a major tournament.

Twenty-two years have passed since the World Cup in France in 1998.

To put things in perspective…

  • 3 Lions ’98 by Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds was number one;
  • It would be five years before Roger Federer won his first tennis Grand Slam;
  • Building work for the Scottish Parliament was not yet under way;
  • Channel 5 was little over one year old;
  • Microsoft had not yet released Windows 98;
  • Bill Clinton was President of the USA.

The 1-1 draw with Serbia in Belgrade last week was in some ways surprising and in others typical for members of the Tartan Army.

Ryan Christie’s second-half goal was little more than Scotland – very much on the front foot for the majority of the game – deserved.

However, the ending seemed to sum up Scotland in a clichéd nutshell: “Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”, “glorious failure”, “so near and yet so far,” “a late sickener” – take your pick.

Seconds were remaining when Luca Jovic headed beyond David Marshall to send the game to extra time. Make no bones about it, if groans, sighs and expletives could be transformed into some form of renewable energy, houses from Lerwick to Leswalt and Wick to Wigtown could have been powered for days. It seemed Scotland had done it yet again – saw the finish line was in sight only to stumble.

Thirty minutes of extra time seemed only to reinforce that as Serbia took charge before a tense penalty shootout.

It was there that people across the country held their breath, hid their faces behind their hands and paced their living room floor.

Marshall’s save from Aleksandar Mitrovic in the shootout will surely go down in Scottish football folklore – one of those moments where you can say exactly where you were.

Even then, there would be one last moment of torture as Marshall looked at referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz, almost waiting to be told he could celebrate, almost waiting to be told the wait was over.

In a year filled with coronavirus, lockdown, mental health struggles and everything else… the wait is over. Scotland have reached a major tournament.