Scotland Manager Andy Roxburgh guided his team through qualification to finish top of their group, taking the nation to the first UEFA European Championships in their history.
The inglorious failures and near misses of the of the past were soon forgotten in 1992, as Scotland landed in Sweden to make history for our country. That year, the Scots would ultimately witness one of football’s greatest upsets as Denmark, who were only parachuted into the competition at the 11th hour to replace war-torn Yugoslavia, defied all the odds by being crowned European champions. The tournaments slogan - ‘Small is beautiful’, was encapsulated by the triumph of that Denmark team.
Scotland, in their maiden voyage at the EUROs, didn’t do too badly either.
Yes, we finished third in the group and failed to qualify for the knockout stages but, as is often the case, the results hide the fine margins.
The Scots arrived in Sweden after finishing top in qualifying Group 2, one single point ahead of Switzerland and above Romania, Bulgaria, and San Marino. As a reward for their efforts, they found themselves slap bang in the middle of one of the toughest groups in the competition.
To give you an idea of the quality they faced, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten were all involved in the build-up to Dennis Bergkamp’s 75th minute strike in the opening defeat to Holland, four truly world-class footballers.
However, we had real talent in the squad that year as well and, looking back today, it reads like a who’s who of Scottish football, featuring Rangers stars Andy Goram, Richard Gough, and Ally McCoist, Celtic’s ‘Maestro’ Paul McStay, Manchester United’s Brian McClair, Pat Nevin of Everton, and Kevin Gallacher, then of Coventry City. There were four Dundee United players in the mix as well, Maurice Malpas, Jim McInally, Dave Bowman and a 20-year-old Duncan Ferguson.
Scotland took confidence from their narrow defeat to the reigning European champions and carried that straight into their second group match – against World champions Germany.
Again, they produced an outstanding performance, creating a succession of chances. However, Germany’s quality and experience told, and Karl-Heinz Reidle opened the scoring before Stefan Effenberg made it two with what Andy Roxburgh would later describe as a ‘freakish’ goal.
"We felt extremely unlucky," said the Scotland boss afterwards. "Scotland pulverised Germany for a lot of that game … the scoreline was a nonsense." The Scots were effectively out of the competition but determined to prove a point in the final match.
What could we have done with a slightly ‘easier’ draw? The next game gave a tantalising hint to the answer.
The CIS, standing for Commonwealth of Independent States, was created as a transitional national team for the Football Federation of the Soviet Union following the collapse of the USSR. They featured in just one single competition, EURO 92 and included players from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus, among them Rangers stars Oleg Kuznetsov and Alexei Mikhailichenko. Dmitri Kharine, latterly of Chelsea and Celtic, and former Rangers and Man United winger, Andrei Kanchelskis, were some of the other call ups.
Over the ensuing 90 minutes Scotland ran over the top of them, dominating from first to final minute. McStay and McClair scored inside the opening 20 minutes and Leeds United’s Gary McAllister made it 3-0 with less than five to go.
The travelling Tartan Army, later recognised by UEFA for their good behaviour at the competition, celebrated wildly at the Idrottsparken in Norrkoping - the mood heightened by the fact that England had been eliminated from the competition the night before, bottom of Group 1 with zero wins, two draws and a defeat.
As far as first impressions at the EUROs go, this was not a bad one for Scotland and, with the duck broken, they qualified again for EURO 96 and a trip to England.
Then, in the 92 final on June 26, Denmark proved that ‘Small is beautiful’ and gave every wee nation reason to believe, beating Germany 2-0 to be crowned European Champions and finish one of football’s greatest stories with a flourish.