For Scotland fans, there is one goal above all others than stands alone as a probably the best goal they’ve ever scored in a World Cup. In fact, lets be honest, it’s one of the best goals scored by any team at a World Cup. It’s certainly one of my favourite goals in the tournaments history. Argentina 1978 had been something of a disaster for the Scottish side, who had gone to the finals in Argentina with high hopes.
During English football’s dark days of failure, Scotland carried British hopes in both the 1974 and 1978 and on both occasions failed to progress from the group stages due to goal difference. Yet despite the disappointment, Gemmill’s goal stands out as a moment of pure football genius on every level.
The Scottish manager at the time, Ally MacLeod had fuelled the hopes of the Tartan Army by insisting his side could come home with a medal but as soon as they arrived in Argentina things began to unravel. The side were on a positive wave, created by beating England at Wembley in 1977, snapped crossbars and pitch invasions et al as they won the British Home Championships.
The first group game saw them face Peru and come unstuck when faced with the majestic talent of Cubillas. Despite taking the lead, Peru pegged them back and then Don Masson saw a penalty saved before Cubillas hit two goals to help the Peruvians to a 3-1 win. After the game Willie Johnston tested positive for a banned substances. Despite the fact is was a simple hay fever remedy, it was enough to engulf the team in a doping scandal. No bitterness from the English press there then eh!
Johnston was sent home in disgrace and the team lurched into the next game, against Iran. Once again, Scotland took the lead but couldn’t hold on and Iran levelled, if anything unfortunate to not win the match. The pictures of MacLeod slumped in his dug out, head in hands summed up the mood of the nation. How could it all go so wrong? Simply, they underestimated the opposition and paid the price.
The final group game saw the Scots face the dynamic Dutch and needed to win by 3 clear goals to have any chance of qualifying for the next round. After the two previous games, they were expected to be lambs to the slaughter. An early goal for the Netherlands, through Resenbrink seemed to be an opening of the flood gates, but Scotland rallied. Kenny Dalglish equalised to go into half time level.
Gemmill then got his first goal of the game, replacing Masson as the penalty taker and slotted one home to put them 2-1 up. Yet, it was his second goal and Scotland’s third that will live long in the memory. The Scottish newspaper, The Scotsman described it thus: “In 68 minutes, however, Scotland went 3–1 up when Archie Gemmill scored one of the great goals of this World Cup so far. The little midfield player homed in on goal, played a magnificent one-two with Dalglish then sprinted into the box and thumped a glorious goal past Jongbloed to revive all the hopes which had died the death this past fortnight. It was an extraordinary goal and an extraordinary moment. Suddenly Scotland were dreaming of glory again”
Of course, it was not to be, Rep scored a screamer to make it 3-2 and whilst the Scots held on for a famous victory, they went out once again on goal difference. A tournament that promised so much, finished with disappointment again. So near, yet so far and Scotland would have to move onwards and upward. The goal became a central point in Trainspottingwhich saw it moved from being the sole love of Scotland fans, to a worthy mention as one of the best goals in the competitions history.
Gemmill’s career saw him play for Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City amongst others as well as playing in the USA for the Jacksonville Team Men in 1982. A delightful passer of the ball, he was a tricky midfield play-maker who got his fair share of goals. Currently the manager of the Scottish Under 19’s team, he is a popular speaker on the after dinner circuit, as anyone who spent so long working under Brian Clough could never be short of an anecdote or too. So all hail, Archie Gemmill, scorer of one the greatest World Cup goals ever and certainly Scotlands best.
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