THE Road to Euro 2020 through the conventional route might be closing for Scotland, but Sunday’s visit of San Marino represents an opportunity to build confidence ahead of the Nations League Playoffs in March, and their second chance of ending a 22 year wait for a major Finals appearance.
It’s the fourth time the minnows will be coming to Hampden since their International qualification bow in 1990. In comparison to many other sides they’ve faced in the last 29 years, they’ve managed to keep the score down to a respectable level. In other words, they’ve not suffered a major hammering like 7-0 or above.
Here’s a look back at the three previous meetings between the two on Scottish soil.
Euro 92 Qualifying: Scotland 4-0 San Marino
This was the final qualifier of the campaign as Scotland looked to gain qualification to their first ever European Championships. It was also the final competitive international at Hampden before its first renovation, and 35,000 made it along to watch the game on the old terracing.
Scotland’s aim was to win by as big a margin as possible, and got off to the perfect start when Paul McStay reacted to his saved effort to send a looping header into the net after ten minutes. Midway through the first half, Richard Gough headed home a Gary McAllister corner to double the advantage, before Gordon Durie prodded home the third before half time.
Despite bringing on strikers Mo Johnston and Kevin Gallacher for defenders Dave McPherson and Craig Levein, Scotland only added one more goal in the second half. McStay’s through ball fed Ally McCoist to hit a sweet first time shot into the bottom right hand corner.
That result, along with favourable results elsewhere, meant Scotland topped the group and were heading to Sweden for their first appearance at the European Championships.
Scotland team: Goram, McPherson (Johnston), Malpas, McAllister, Gough, Levein (Gallacher), McCall, Robertson, McCoist, McStay, Durie
Euro 96 Qualifying: Scotland 5-0 San Marino
Like four years previous, this was the final qualifying match of the campaign. The main difference this time around was that Scotland had already secured their place in the Finals ahead of Greece, and chose to experiment with their starting eleven at Hampden.
It took the Scots more than half an hour to break down the San Marino rearguard. Pat Nevin’s skipped past two defenders before cutting the ball back to Eoin Jess to slot home. Jess’s Aberdeen teammate Scott Booth then doubled the advantage before half time from close range.
Ally McCoist then replaced Gary McAllister at the start of the second half and, within a minute of coming on, he netted the third with a header from Nevin’s cross. Nevin then got on the scoresheet himself, tapping home after an error by the San Marino goalkeeper, before a diving own goal by Francini rounded off a resounding victory, giving Scotland the perfect ending to their Road to Wembley and Villa Park.
Scotland team: Leighton, McLaren, Boyd, Calderwood, Hendry, Gemmill, Nevin, Booth (Jackson), Jess, McAllister (McCoist), Collins (B McKinlay)
World Cup 2002 Qualifying: Scotland 4-0 San Marino
Unlike previous campaigns, this meeting took place in the middle of the qualification campaign, this time for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Having thrown away two points at home to ten man Belgium from a 2-0 position, the pressure was on Scotland to hammer in the goals against a San Marino side who lost ten goals to the Belgians the previous month.
Two of the goals came from the most unlikely source. Captain Colin Hendry, who’s only previous Scotland goal came eight years earlier against Malta in his second cap, netted a stunning double. The first a left foot effort into the top corner after Matt Elliott hit the bar, then he drilled home from the edge of the box with his right foot following a Craig Burley corner. Billy Dodds carried on from his double against the Belgians by nodding home goal number three before Colin Cameron added a fourth in the second half to conclude to the scoring.
Hendry’s night would then turn sour as he swung his elbow smack in the face of San Marino sub Albani. Although the incident went unpunished by the officials, he was given a five game ban by FIFA after their review. It signalled the end of Hendry’s International career as Scotland failed to reach the World Cup, the second of ten consecutive Major Tournaments we’ve missed out on since 1998.
Scotland: Sullivan, Weir, Matteo (Gallacher), Lambert, Hendry, Elliott (Boyd), Cameron (Gemmill), Burley, Dodds, Hutchison, Johnston