After failing to qualify for the finals for Euro '80, and only winning five games in eighteen and losing eleven, pressure was mounting on Jock Stein before he embarked on his first World Cup as full-time manager. This qualification campaign began with a 1-0 win in Sweden, thanks to a solitary Gordon Strachan goal. A goalless draw at home to Portugal followed, before a 1-0 win in Israel where Kenny Dalglish scored the winner. A 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland followed, where John Wark equalised Billy Hamilton's strike. A month later Israel visited Hampden and two John Robertson penalties and a Davie Provan strike gave Scotland a 3-1 win. The following month the 1981 British Championships took place, and it climaxed with a famous 1-0 win at Wembley thanks to a John Robertson penalty. The tournament was not completed though as England and Wales both refused to play in Northern Ireland due to problems with the IRA When the next qualifier came around, a win against Sweden would all but guarantee qualification. Scotland took the lead with a diving header from Joe Jordan, and seven minutes from time Andy Gray was deemed to have been fouled in the box, and John Robertson scored the resulting penalty to win 2-0. After the game Andy Gray admitted that he had dived, that infuriated the Swedes and Jock Stein. Scotland's qualification was guaranteed a month later with a 0-0 draw at Windsor Park. In the final match Scotland were defeated 2-0 in Portugal, but Scotland topped the group, with Northern Ireland in second place, and both the home nations qualified for the World Cup finals.
John Robertson scores the winning penalty kick in a famous 1-0 victory at Wembley.
In April 1982, Scotland's participation in the World Cup was thrown into doubt as Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and the Falklands War began. There were people who didn't think that any of the home nations should be taking part in the World Cup while the country was at war. Graeme Souness and Danny McGrain said that Scotland should withdraw, but many members of the British Armed Forces wanted them to take part, as it would boost morale among the troops. Because of this the Scotland team had no problems taking part. On 15th June, the day that Scotland played their first match against New Zealand, Argentina surrendered, and the war was over.
Scotland took the lead after 18 minutes when Gordon Strachan went on a solo run before passing to Kenny Dalglish who slotted it home. Fourteen minutes later the keeper parried an Alan Brazil shot, and John Wark scored the rebound. Wark got his second three minutes later when he headed in a Strachan cross. In the first twenty minutes of the second half, poor defending let New Zealand score twice, before John Robertson scored a free-kick seventeen minutes from time. Steve Archibald completed the scoring with a header from a Strachan corner ten minutes from time, to give Scotland a 5-2 victory.
The Scotland team line up before the opening game against New Zealand.
The following match was against Brazil, who were heavy favourites, it was therefore a shock when Scotland took the lead after eighteen minutes. A long ball from Souness, was headed into the path of David Narey by John Wark. Narey took a touch before unleashing a perfect shot into the top corner of the net. English pundit Jimmy Hill cheekily described Narey's goal as a toe-poke, which caused him to be alienated from the Scotland fans. Fifteen minutes later, Brazil equalised through a fantastic free-kick from Zico, which left Alan Rough stranded on the goal line. Brazil took the lead from an Oscar header at the start of the second half, and that was followed by Eder chipping Rough who was off his line to make it 3-1. Four minutes from time a low shot from Falcao went in off the post to give Brazil a 4-1 victory.
Four days later, Scotland went into the match with USSR, level on points but behind on goal difference. Therefore Scotland needed a win to qualify. They got off to a great start when after fifteen minutes, a defensive mistake let Steve Archibald nip in and slip a pass to Joe Jordan to slot the ball into the bottom left hand corner. This meant that Jordan had scored in the last three World Cup finals. After an hour Chivadze equalized after a goalmouth scramble. With six minutes remaining, Scotland looked to be in no trouble when a lack of communication caused both Willie Miller and Alan Hansen to go for the same ball out on the left, before they both collided, leaving Shengelia free to round Alan Rough and score USSR's second. Four minutes later Souness picked up the ball on the edge of the Soviet box, and hit a low shot that went in off the post to make it 2-2. It was too little too late, as for the third World Cup in a row, Scotland went out on goal difference.
David Narey scoring his famous "Toe Poke" to give Scotland a 1-0 lead against Brazil.
The qualification campaign for Euro '84 began with a 2-0 home win over East Germany, which was followed by a 2-0 defeat away to Switzerland. In the next game away to Belgium, Scotland led twice through a Dalglish double, but Belgium won the match 3-2. In the home match against Switzerland, Scotland were 2-0 down before they scored twice in the last twenty minutes with goals from John Wark and Charlie Nicholas. The campaign was finished with a 1-1 draw with Belgium and a 2-1 away defeat to East Germany. Scotland finished bottom of the group with only one win in six matches, which was very poor. After the Euro '84 campaign was over for Scotland, they focused on the 1984 British Championships, which was the last ever tournament as it had been decided to end the British Championships due to falling crowds.
Alan Hansen challenges Van Der Elst in the Euro qualifying match in Brussels that Belgium won 3-2.
When the qualifiers for the 1986 World Cup came around, Jock Stein had Aberdeen's highly successful manager Alex Ferguson as his assistant, and in their first game together Scotland thrashed Yugoslavia 6-1 in a friendly at Hampden. In the opening qualifier, a Paul McStay double and a Charlie Nicholas goal gave Scotland a 3-0 victory over Iceland. The next visitors to Hampden were the group favourites Spain. Scotland went 2-0 up thanks to a double by Mo Johnston, before Spain pulled one back. With fifteen minutes remaining Kenny Dalglish received the ball on the right hand side of the box, before he shimmied past three defenders and turned and hit a powerful left foot shot into the top left hand corner. It was Dalglish's 30th international goal, equalling Dennis Law's all time record, and it gave Scotland a 3-1 victory. In the return match Spain won 1-0, and that was followed by a 1-0 defeat by Wales at Hampden. The 1984/85 season finished with the first ever Rous Cup, which kept up the annual Scotland-England match after the British Championships was ended. In this match, Scotland beat England 1-0 at Hampden thanks to a Richard Gough header, to win their first trophy in eight years. Three days later a late Jim Bett goal gave Scotland a 1-0 win in Iceland.
Scotland line up for the first ever Rous Cup match against England at Hampden Park, which Scotland won 1-0.
Going into the final qualifier, Scotland, Wales and Spain were all on six points, with Scotland having the superior goal difference. But with Spain at home to Iceland, barring a shock result, Scotland needed a draw in Cardiff to qualify for the play-offs, but with Scotland four goals better than Spain, a win would almost certainly win the group for Scotland. The match got off to a bad start for Scotland when Mark Hughes put Wales ahead after thirteen minutes. With nine minutes remaining, a David Speedie shot was handled in the box, and up stepped substitute Davie Cooper for the most important penalty kick of his career. He hit the penalty low into the right hand corner, and Wales keeper Neville Southall got to the ball but couldn't keep it out. While the Scotland players were celebrating at full time, Jock Stein got into an argument with a photographer, before he collapsed in the dugout. He was carried into the medical room where the doctors tried to resuscitate him, and after half an hour he was pronounced dead. A time of celebration was turned into mourning.
For the remainder of the World Cup campaign, Alex Ferguson took charge. As Spain defeated Iceland in the last qualifier, Scotland now faced a two-legged play-off against Oceania's group winners, which was Australia. In the first leg at Hampden, a free-kick from Davie Cooper after 58 minutes, and a goal from debutant Frank McAvennie two minutes later gave Scotland a 2-0 result to take to Melbourne. The second leg finished goalless for Scotland to qualify for the finals in Mexico.
Davie Cooper scores the vital penalty that gave Scotland a 1-1 draw with Wales, and took them to the play-offs for the World Cup Finals.
The draw for the finals were made on 15th December, and Scotland were grouped with West Germany, Denmark, and Uruguay, in what was dubbed the “Group of Death”. In the build up to the finals, Scotland defeated Romania 3-0 at Hampden, in a game which saw Kenny Dalglish receive his 100th cap, but he would miss the finals due to a knee injury.
In the opening game, a low shot in off the post by Elkjaer gave Denmark a 1-0 win. Four days later, Scotland played West Germany in Querataro, and after seventeen minutes, a great move by Scotland was started when Gough received a headed clearance on the right hand edge of the box, before he passed to Roy Aitken who played a great ball into the path of Gordon Strachan. He ran into the box and hit a great shot into the opposite end of the net to give Scotland a 1-0 lead. What was just as famous as the goal itself was the celebration, as Strachan ran to an advertisement board and considered jumping over it, before he put his right leg on top of it. Five minutes later a great passing move by the Germans finished with Voller knocking a crossed ball into an empty net to equalise. Five minutes into the second half, slack defending let Allofs score the winning goal for West Germany. Going into the final match, Scotland knew that a draw with Uruguay would be enough to qualify in third place, which was now a possibility because of an increase in the number of countries in the competition. The game got off to a good start for Scotland as Uruguay had a player sent-off after only 45 seconds, but for the rest of the match a series of fouls by Uruguay were unnoticed by the referee, and as a result the match ended 0-0, and Scotland finished bottom of their group and went home early from another World Cup finals.
The Scotland team line up before the 2-1 defeat by West Germany in Querataro.