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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.