Twenty-three years of glorious failure - Scotland's long road back to a major tournament in numbers

Steve Clarke and his squad will end 23 years of waiting on June 14

James McFadden, Don Hutchison, Leigh Griffiths and Chris Iwelumo have all produced major moments, both triumphant and tragic, for the Scots over the years (Getty Images)
James McFadden, Don Hutchison, Leigh Griffiths and Chris Iwelumo have all produced major moments, both triumphant and tragic, for the Scots over the years (Getty Images)
James McFadden, Don Hutchison, Leigh Griffiths and Chris Iwelumo have all produced major moments, both triumphant and tragic, for the Scots over the years (Getty Images)

On Monday it will have been 8,392 days since Scotland bowed out of France ‘98 with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of mighty Morocco.

In that time Scottish fans have become acquainted with failure, both glorious and inglorious.

The years of near and not so near misses have combined tragedy and comedy in equal measure with the Hampden side falling short on the road to the finals of either a European Championships or World Cup on no less than 10 occasions.

Now, the long wait is almost over with the nation’s dream of returning to the top table of international football set to be realised.

Here’s the story in numbers of Scotland’s long return back to a major tournament.

The results

Qualifying games played: 108

Games won: 48

Games lost: 35

Games drawn: 23

Games drawn and then won on penalties: 2

The biggest wins

The Tartan Army endeavoured to three 6-0 victories in the 23-year window, all three against minnows.

In 2006 they battered the Faroe Islands 6-0 with Kris Boyd bagging a brace. Nine years later they saw off Gibraltar with Steven Fletcher taking home the match ball. In the most recent campaign Steve Clarke’s side saw off San Marino, McGinn securing a hat-trick from midfield.

The biggest loss

The most miserable result came against Netherlands in 2003 when a Berti Vogts-led Scotland fell 6-0 to the Netherlands. To make matters worse it was the second leg of a play-off game and Scotland held a 1-0 lead going into the fixture

The top goalscorers

Kenny Miller 18

James McFadden 15

Steven Naismith 10

Steven Fletcher 10

John McGinn 10

Shaun Maloney 7

Robert Snodgrass 7

Billy Dodds 7

One-cap wonders (in friendlies and competitive fixtures)

Stephen Glass (1998), Robbie Winters (1999), Paul Telfer (2000), John O’Neil (2001), Charlie Miller (2001), Andy McLaren (2001), Warren Cummings (2002), Jamie McAllister (2004), John Kennedy (2004), Steven Hammell (2004), Paul Gallagher (2004), Peter Canero (2004), Robbie Neilson (2006), Darren Barr (2008), Ross Wallace (2009), Stephen Hughes (2009), Steven Saunders (2010), Cammy Bell (2010), Mark Wilson (2011), Andrew Shinnie (2012), Liam Kelly (2012), Murray Davidson (2012), Ian Black (2012), Stevie May (2014), Tony Watt (2016), Barrie McKay (2016), Stephen Kingsley (2016), Paul Caddis (2016), Lewis Stevenson (2018), Barry Douglas (2018), Jordan Archer (2018), Stuart Findlay (2019), Eamonn Brophy (2019), Paul Hanlon (2019), David Turnbull (2021), Nathan Patterson (2021)

Qualifying campaigns in brief

Euro 2000

The teams: Czech Republic (1st), Scotland (2nd), Bosnia Herzegovina (3rd), Lithuania (4th), Estonia (5th), Faroe Islands (6th)

Wins: 6 Draws: 3 Losses: 3

Top scorer: Billy Dodds (4)

Where it was lost: Scotland progressed to a Play-off with bitter rivals England. After falling to a 2-0 loss at Hampden, Scotland fell tragically short with a 1-0 victory at Wembley.

World Cup 2002

The teams: Croatia (1st), Belgium (2nd), Scotland (3rd), Latvia (4th), San Marino (5th)

Wins: 4 Draws: 3 Losses: 1

Top scorer: Billy Dodds 3

Where it was lost: Scotland were unbeaten going into their penultimate fixture with rivals for second spot Belgium. The Belgians ran out 2-0 winners courtesy of goals from Nicolas Van Kerckhoven and Bart Goor.

Euro 2004

The teams: Germany (1st), Scotland (2nd), Iceland (3rd), Lithuania (4th), Faroe Islands (5th)

Wins: 4 Draws: 2 Losses: 2

Top scorer: Neil McCann and Kenny Miller 2

Where it was lost: A maligned Berti Vogts managed to steer Scotland to a play-off match with Holland. After securing a 1-0 win at home, Scotland were slaughtered 6-0 at the hands of the Dutch.

World Cup 2006

The teams: Italy (1st), Norway (2nd), Scotland (3rd), Slovenia (4th), Belarus (5th), Moldova (6th)

Wins: 3 Draws: 4 Losses: 3

Top scorer: Kenny Miller 3

Where it was lost: Scotland took just two points from their first four fixtures, including a defeat at home to Norway and a draw with lowly Moldova. The former result ultimately handed Norway second place.

Euro 2008

The teams: Italy (1st), France (2nd), Scotland (3rd), Ukraine (4th), Lithuania (5th), Georgia (6th), Faroe Islands (7th)

Wins: 8 Draws: 0 Losses: 4

Top scorer: Kris Boyd and James McFadden

Where it was lost: drawn in a group with the two World Cup finalists Scotland were always up against it in this group – and yet they came oh so close. Despite earning two victories against France, Scotland fell to a 2-0 defeat against Georgia, ultimately allowing France to assume second spot.

World Cup 2010

The teams: Netherlands (1st), Norway (2nd), Scotland (3rd), Iceland (4th), Macedonia (5th)

Wins: 3 Draws: 1 Losses: 4

Top scorer: James McFadden 2

Where it was lost: A group there for the taking, Scotland got off to a false start in this group losing their opener to the eventual bottom side Macedonia.

Euro 2012

The teams: Spain (1st), Czech Republic (2nd), Scotland (3rd), Lithuania (4th), Liechtenstein (5th)

Wins: 3 Draws: 2 Losses: 3

Top scorers: Steven Naismith and Kenny Miller 2

Where it was lost: Craig Levein deployed a 4-6-0 formation against Czech Republic in Scotland’s third fixture. Unsurprisingly, Scotland failed to score and fell to a 1-0 defeat.

World Cup 2014

The teams: Belgium (1st), Croatia (2nd), Serbia (3rd), Scotland (4th), Wales (5th), Macedonia (6th)

Wins: 3 Draws: 2 Losses: 5

Top scorer: Robert Snodgrass 2

Where it was lost: Two losses to an inexperienced Wales side ultimately cost Scotland dear. Especially frustrating when you consider that they impressively saw off Croatia on two occasions.

Euro 2016

The teams: Germany (1st), Poland (2nd), Ireland (3rd), Scotland (4th), Georgia (5th), Gibraltar (6th)

Wins: 4 Draws: 3 Losses: 3

Top scorer: Steven Fletcher 7

Where it was lost: It was yet another miserable defeat in Tbilisi that cost Scotland, this time the Scots losing 1-0 to the Georgians.

World Cup 2018

The teams: England (1st), Slovakia (2nd), Scotland (3rd), Slovenia (4th), Lithuania (5th), Malta (6th)

Wins: 5 Draws: 3 Losses: 2

Top scorers: Leigh Griffiths and Robert Snodgrass 4

Where it was lost: Back-to-back 3-0 defeats to Slovakia and England ultimately cost Scotland a run at top spot. A famous victory over England was ultimately denied by a later Harry kane equaliser.

Euro 2020

The teams: Belgium (1st), Russia (2nd), Scotland (3rd), Cyprus (4th), Kazakhstan (5th), San Marino (6th)

Wins: 5 Draws: 0 Losses: 5

Top scorer: John McGinn 7

Where it was won: Not in the initial group stage… an Alex McLeish-led Scotland were humbled 3-0 by Kazakhstan in Astana in Scotland’s worst defeat since France ‘98. It was a case of it being the darkest before dawn, however, with Steve Clarke stepping into the manager’s role, earning Scotland two penalty shootout victories over Israel and then Serbia.