What a fucking heartbreaker.
It doesn’t make it any easier, knowing beforehand. You can see it coming days and weeks, even months before. You cringe through the buildup, knowing it can only end one way. Doesn’t matter how much you preach cautious optimism, telling yourself you’ll see how it goes, you’ve been wrong before.
But those Italian bastards will only go and prove you right anyway. If Gordon Brown is any kind of Scot (and here’s me of all people, lecturing on Scottishness) he’ll give Romano Prodi the finger next time he sees him, never mind a diplomatic handshake. Not that Scotland played brilliantly, but you can’t help hoping. Remember after all that we were supposed to have been gubbed by almost everyone in the group by this point and out of contention before Easter. To be up against the world champions (albeit undeserving ones as I see it) in a do or die match is nothing short of miraculous. I might even forgive Big Eck for taking Motherwell from Europe to near-relegation before c0cking off to Hibs.
Surprisingly, I’m not bitter. Scotland have had their Euro 2008 already. No competition in the summer could match this qualification campaign for highs, lows and country-rocking drama. Compare to the other Home Countries – England might scrape through on Wednesday but their sheer lack of lead in the collective pencil will make it a dire encounter regardless. Wales and Ireland stuffed it up again without really distinguishing themselves, and Norn Ireland I think might have a chance still if David Healy, maths and the footballing Gods all stay on the same side for once. Really though, what could Scotland have done in Austria next July that would compare to mortifying France? (TWICE). Scottish football has promise again, funnily enough at a time when the English Premiership is being lambasted for resembling the United Nations more than a country of Yorkshire and Merseyside and all the rest.
I was greetin’ my way through the National Anthem, and to be honest I knew then that we were doomed. It was worth it though for those ninety minutes of thinking ‘maybe’, to hear the stadium rattling with the sheer force of singing, albeit through my telly. ‘Mon tha Scotland, there’s still a World Cup in 2010!
(oh, and it was NOT a free kick, but what can you do?)