Scotland ended their 23-year wait to play in a major men’s tournament after beating Serbia on penalties in Belgrade and sealing their spot at Euro 2020.
David Marshall was the hero for Scotland, who have not featured at a men’s World Cup or European Championship since 1998, when he saved brilliantly from Aleksandar Mitrovic to secure a 5-4 shootout victory.
Ryan Christie’s 52nd-minute strike appeared to have sent Steve Clarke’s impressive side through until Serbia scored with their first effort on target in the 90th minute through Luka Jovic’s header from a corner. Scotland are now nine games unbeaten – their best run in 44 years – and will face England, Croatia and the Czech Republic in Group D at next summer’s delayed finals, with two matches at Hampden Park.
An emotional Andy Robertson paid tribute to the character of the Scotland team as they recovered from the last-minute body blow to pick themselves up. He told Sky Sports: “It just shows you the strengths we’ve got. A lot of people would have crumbled and lost in extra time but we’ve stuck together throughout the whole process and now we’ve got the night we deserve. I can’t wait for the summer now. This is the most emotional I’ve ever been after the game. I’m so proud of all of them.”
The Scotland captain added: “We’ve got two games at Hampden lying ahead next summer. I will say every prayer I have to make sure we have a full Hampden because, my god, we will feel it.
“We felt the love from back home all the way over here tonight, we knew how it could give everyone back home a lift. I hope everyone parties at home because we’ve been through tough times as footballers and fans for Scotland. It will be 23 years when we get there but we’ve done it now.”
Scotland’s goalscorer, Christie, wept as he described his feelings: “It’s just for the whole nation,” he said. “It’s been a horrible year for everyone. We knew that coming into the game. We could give a little something to this country and I hope everyone back home is having a party tonight.”
Clarke added: “It’s a magnificent night for everybody in Scotland. We said we’d try to put a smile back on their faces and I hope they enjoyed the moment as much as we did in Belgrade. Yeah, they can smile tomorrow.
“Every player turned up and I’m not just talking about the 11 that started. I’m talking about the boys who came off the bench but I’m also talking about the rest of the squad. Their positivity, the way they conducted themselves when they knew they weren’t starting the game, everyone, even the two boys left out, Greg Taylor and Lawrence Shankland, not even in the squad. Everybody was together.
“And that’s why we succeed because for a long time we have been building this group of players and tonight we get the rewards.”