As of February 2017 Scotland sit fifth in their World Cup Qualifying Group, six points off the pace set by leaders England. In four matches they have picked up four points, beating only mighty Malta. It is highly probable Scotland will fail to qualify for Russia 2018, and doing so would mean missing a fifth consecutive World Cup.
From 1974 to 1990 Scotland actually did travel to five consecutive World Cups. And in 1978 they went to Argentina as a dark horse favorite. In ‘76 and ‘77 they had won back-to-back Home Championships, going unbeaten in both editions. A summer tour through South America in the year preceding the World Cup had netted a win in Chile (4:2), a draw with Argentina (1:1) and a loss to Brazil (0:2). Most important of all Scotland won three of their four qualifying matches, doing the double over Wales and splitting the series with Czechoslovakia, who had just been crowned European champions.
No wonder spirits were high. Sending the hype machine into overdrive was manager Ally MacLeod. The former Rovers winger wasted no opportunity to talk up his side’s chances, tipping Scotland to bring home “at least a medal”. An abundance of pop songs were penned and intoned, including one by Rod Stewart. Hampden Park hosted a grand send-off. Thousands of fans made the journey to Argentina. Their first destination was to be Cordoba, their first opponents Peru.
Blowing hot and cold, the 1970s were likely Peru’s best ever decade. At the 1970 World Cup, only their second showing ever, they reached the Quarter-finals. Eventual champions Brazil proved too stiff a competition, beating La Blanquirroja 4:2. Five years on the fates were reversed as Peru beat Brazil in the Semi-final en route to claiming their second Copa America title. Héctor Chumpitaz and Teófilo Cubillas had featured in both tournaments and were still staples in the side come 1978. The pair would combine for 186 career caps, and both would find their name on the teamsheet against Scotland. Continue reading