Jump to content
Sports Interactive Community

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

glamdring

Euro 2020 - a nation expects... (A short[ish!] story)

Recommended Posts

Prologue

The year is 2020, the place Glasgow, a city overflowing with anticipation and excitement. The casual visitor who has just arrived from Mars or who, for reasons of best known to themselves, has no interest in football, may have been by-passed by the revolution in the Scottish football scene over the past decade or more so I feel it my duty to give an overview here.

You have to go back some 16 years for the genesis of this sea-change in both Scottish and European football. No-one knew it back then, but when Ross County appointed a totally unknown manager by the name of Adam Eckersley, they were sowing the seeds which would change the course of history for years to come. Those seeds have now borne fruit in spectacular fashion, for not only are Scotland co-hosting the Euro 2020 football tournament with Wales, they go into it as overwhelming favourites, as holders, as Confederations Cup holders, as World Cup holders and as the number 1 ranked nation in the world.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I must return to 2004 and the northern Scottish town of Dingwall. In truth, nothing special happened that year – Ross County briefly threatened to challenge for the single promotion spot from Division 1 before falling away to finish 5th thanks largely to an appalling away record. Since then, however, the club have gone from strength to strength in unbelievable fashion, culminating in an unprecedented quadruple winning season in the lead up to this all important Euro 2020 tournament.

Following promotion in 2005, Ross County set about establishing themselves in the SPL with an entirely Scottish squad. Whilst initially it didn’t go well, bottom of the table at Christmas, the team rallied superbly to a debut 3rd placed finish. In 2009, the disappointment at finishing only 2nd was clear for all to see after back to back title wins, but in the years since, County have been pretty much invincible over the course of a season, winning a record-breaking 11 straight SPL titles as well as 6 league cups and 6 Scottish FA Cups.

It took a while before this domestic dominance was fully transferred to European football, but the narrow 3-2 defeat to Inter Milan in the 2012 Champions League final sent out a warning. 2 years later there was no mistake as Ross County won their first ever Champions League title, emulating the great Lisbon Lions by doing so with an entirely Scottish team. The club’s place in European football history was secured as they became only the 4th team ever to win a hat-trick of back to back titles. The following 3 seasons saw disappointment as the club faltered at the quarter and semi-final stages, but 2020 has seen a momentous return as a tired and jaded squad ended a triumphant season with a 2-0 victory over VFB Stuttgart to put Scottish club football back alongside their national side, on top of the European stage.

Before I move on to Euro 2020 itself, I should say a few words about the two great Glasgow clubs, as the eyes of Europe turn to this great city. Unfortunately for them, Ross County’s emergence and subsequent dominance of the domestic game has seen a long succession of managers head through the revolving doors of both Ibrox and Parkhead, as the two fallen giants struggle to regain a foothold. Celtic have finished 8th, 4th and 3rd on numerous occasions over the last decade, with just a solitary 2nd place in 2018 giving any real cause for hope. As for Glasgow Rangers, 2020 has been the worst year in their illustrious history as the club finally succumbed to the fate which has threatened to engulf them for the last few seasons. When it finally came, it was devastating – a humiliating 17 points separating Rangers from safety as they nose-dived into Division 1 for the first time ever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Prologue

The year is 2020, the place Glasgow, a city overflowing with anticipation and excitement. The casual visitor who has just arrived from Mars or who, for reasons of best known to themselves, has no interest in football, may have been by-passed by the revolution in the Scottish football scene over the past decade or more so I feel it my duty to give an overview here.

You have to go back some 16 years for the genesis of this sea-change in both Scottish and European football. No-one knew it back then, but when Ross County appointed a totally unknown manager by the name of Adam Eckersley, they were sowing the seeds which would change the course of history for years to come. Those seeds have now borne fruit in spectacular fashion, for not only are Scotland co-hosting the Euro 2020 football tournament with Wales, they go into it as overwhelming favourites, as holders, as Confederations Cup holders, as World Cup holders and as the number 1 ranked nation in the world.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I must return to 2004 and the northern Scottish town of Dingwall. In truth, nothing special happened that year – Ross County briefly threatened to challenge for the single promotion spot from Division 1 before falling away to finish 5th thanks largely to an appalling away record. Since then, however, the club have gone from strength to strength in unbelievable fashion, culminating in an unprecedented quadruple winning season in the lead up to this all important Euro 2020 tournament.

Following promotion in 2005, Ross County set about establishing themselves in the SPL with an entirely Scottish squad. Whilst initially it didn’t go well, bottom of the table at Christmas, the team rallied superbly to a debut 3rd placed finish. In 2009, the disappointment at finishing only 2nd was clear for all to see after back to back title wins, but in the years since, County have been pretty much invincible over the course of a season, winning a record-breaking 11 straight SPL titles as well as 6 league cups and 6 Scottish FA Cups.

It took a while before this domestic dominance was fully transferred to European football, but the narrow 3-2 defeat to Inter Milan in the 2012 Champions League final sent out a warning. 2 years later there was no mistake as Ross County won their first ever Champions League title, emulating the great Lisbon Lions by doing so with an entirely Scottish team. The club’s place in European football history was secured as they became only the 4th team ever to win a hat-trick of back to back titles. The following 3 seasons saw disappointment as the club faltered at the quarter and semi-final stages, but 2020 has seen a momentous return as a tired and jaded squad ended a triumphant season with a 2-0 victory over VFB Stuttgart to put Scottish club football back alongside their national side, on top of the European stage.

Before I move on to Euro 2020 itself, I should say a few words about the two great Glasgow clubs, as the eyes of Europe turn to this great city. Unfortunately for them, Ross County’s emergence and subsequent dominance of the domestic game has seen a long succession of managers head through the revolving doors of both Ibrox and Parkhead, as the two fallen giants struggle to regain a foothold. Celtic have finished 8th, 4th and 3rd on numerous occasions over the last decade, with just a solitary 2nd place in 2018 giving any real cause for hope. As for Glasgow Rangers, 2020 has been the worst year in their illustrious history as the club finally succumbed to the fate which has threatened to engulf them for the last few seasons. When it finally came, it was devastating – a humiliating 17 points separating Rangers from safety as they nose-dived into Division 1 for the first time ever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Author's Note:

This is just a short story covering the Euro 2020 championships in my CM 03/04 Ross County savegame which also spawned my first Faroe Islands story.

Scottish league is the only one running and, as such, it being CM 03/04, the game is now flooded with Scottish players and they are ludicrously over-powered as a result, but hopefully the Scots amongst you can still enjoy it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 1

On the international scene, the European Championships in 2008 and 2012 saw Norway and Italy emerge triumphant before Scotland edged through no fewer than 3 extra-time nail-biters to win the 2016 trophy, Ian MacSween achieving hero status with 4 extra-time goals all told. As for the World Cup, Colombia lifted the 2006 trophy before losing out to France in the 2010 final. Argentina’s 2014 victory over Spain was followed by a hugely impressive performance from Scotland in 2018 as they brushed aside Turkey 7-0 in the biggest World Cup final victory of all time.

And so, here we are, in Glasgow, the city which, jointly with Cardiff, will play host to the majority of matches in the Euro 2020 tournament, the city whose public expects and demands that their nation’s footballers retain their trophy and cement their place as the World’s Number 1 team.

As for the rest of the contenders, here is a brief summary of the qualifying…

Group 1 witnessed one of the most exciting qualifying campaigns ever, as just 2 points separated 5 of the 6 teams after 10 games. Portugal (17 points) edged out Greece (17 points) for automatic qualification, leaving Latvia (17 points), Belarus (16 points) and Sweden (15 points) all wondering “what if…†Greece headed into the play-offs where they squeezed past Denmark 2-1 on aggregate.

From Group 2 come Belgium whose 21 point haul saw them finish a point clear of both Ireland and Turkey, the Irish subsequently losing out in their play-off, of which more later…

Group 4 saw another very close campaign as the Czech Republic sent Iceland into the play-offs, leaving Hungary and Norway one win short. The play-offs brought unbridled joy for Iceland as Spain were sent packing with an historic 4-3 victory. Russia’s qualification from Group 5 was secured in their final match, courtesy of Georgia stumbling to a costly 3-3 draw in Moldova to finish 1 point behind and then get outclassed 4-1 in their play-off with Austria.

A tense night in Austria saw England come from behind to top Group 6 by 3 points, sending their hosts into their ultimately victorious play-off with Georgia. Group 7 witnessed a similar finale as Germany’s 0-1 win in Denmark saw them leapfrog the Danes to qualify by 1 point. Slovenia’s qualification from Group 8 was already certain as they travelled to Spain and won 1-2 to finish an impressive 5 points clear at the top of their group. Group 9 was a 2-team affair as Italy and Romania fought for top spot, miles clear of 3rd placed Finland. Romania’s strong qualifying record saw them finish as the best second-placed team, thus joining Italy at Euro 2020.

Finally, the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that I have skipped over Group 3, a group which saw one of the most dramatic comebacks in qualifying history. France never really looked troubled as they comfortably secured enough points to top the group, but behind them was a frantic battle for the play-off spot. With 3 games to go, Slovakia, Serbia & Montenegro and Poland were fighting it out, with the Faroe Islands lying 5th.

3 goals in the first 8 minutes saw the Faroes stun France in Thorshavn to keep their hopes alive. They then won sensationally, 3-4 in Poland before completing an unlikely hat-trick of victories with a 0-1 win in Serbia which saw them into the play-offs. There they won 0-2 in Dublin before conceding a 0-2 lead to the Irish in Thorshavn, but 3 goals in 13 minutes saw the Faroe Islands through, 5-2 on aggregate, to their first ever European Championships. Hot on the heels of their qualification for the 2016 World Cup were they memorably beat Argentina 2-0, the Faroe Islands have become a force to be reckoned with in world football, now lying 36th in the Fifa rankings, having been 151st when Ross County manager Adam Eckersley took on the seemingly hopeless task some 10 years ago. So it is that the most successful manager in Scottish club football history leads the smallest nation ever to qualify into Euro 2020 in his adopted home country.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hampden Park, Ibrox, Parkhead, Millenium Stadium, Ninian Park, Swansea's stadium and (quite ridiculously) Aberdeen's now rather dilapidated Pittodrie - a stadium which now has a capacity of ~12,500 after it twice had stands closed down as Aberdeen slumped into Division 2 at one stage with financial problems also. They are back in SPL now, but their stadium hasn't been upgraded again!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 2

The tournament finally gets underway at The Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, where the Czech Republic rip Iceland to pieces, scoring twice in the opening 7 minutes on their way to a comfortable 3-0 win, Iceland finishing a miserable match for them with 10 men. The other match in Group B takes place the following day at The White Rock Stadium in Swansea, Marian Radu netting a hat-trick as Romania sensationally demolish France 5-1 to keep pace with the Czechs.

Disappointingly for the Scottish public, their team’s opening match also takes place at The Millenium Stadium as Group D opens with the mouth-watering prospect of Scotland vs Germany. With 2 centre-backs suspended for the opening match, the Scots have a few selection issues, but with a strong squad replacements are readily at hand. Ross County’s Kevin Black starts in goal, club-mates Kerr Dodds, now 35 years old, and Craig Nicol fill the full-back berths, either side of Ross County and Scotland captain Nick James, winning his 99th cap, and Andy MacDonald of Inter Milan. As usual, County’s Richard Rhodes and the sublimely talented Alan Reid play on the wings, with Michael Reid providing the creative edge and Sturm Graz’ Stuart Reid the defensive steel in central midfield. Upfront, Kevin Watson reprises his prolific partnership with top scorer Mark McGlynn, needing just 1 goal to break Dennis Law’s all time goalscoring record for Scotland, after sharing 76 goals with Watson for their club this season.

An uninspiring first half, played out in a howling gale, sees little in the way of goalmouth action, despite Scotland’s dominance, as the two sides head in 0-0 at half-time. The 2nd half sees rather more chances, almost exclusively for Scotland, but despite their complete dominance of the game, the Scots fail to score, having to settle for a hugely disappointing 0-0 draw. A strong performance from Russia puts them top of Group D with a 2-0 win over Greece in the evening kick-off.

With local pride at stake at Ninian Park, Wales play host to England, hoping to put aside their ranking as by far the lowliest participants in the tournament. Things don’t go to plan for the Welsh though as England sweep them aside with a comfortable 3-0 win. The first match to take place in Scotland sees the Faroe Islands take on Slovenia at Ibrox in a thrilling encounter. Uniquely for such a prestigious championships, the Faroe Islands go into the match fielding an unprecedented 4 unattached players whose match fitness has to be called into question. Amongst these, centre-back Janus Mikkelson, 33, has just announced his retirement at the end of the season, whilst all time top scorer, Allan Andreasen looks to add to his 18 international goals.

Making his international debut down the left wing, Kristian Jacobsen makes a huge impact, giving fans hope that he can fill the troublesome position for years to come. With 18 minutes gone, Slovenia having had the better of the chances, his left-footed corner is headed home at the far post by Janus Mikkelson to give the minnows the lead. Just 8 minutes later, Magni Nonklett’s through ball finds Allan Andreasen who duly picks out Mortan Nielsen to fire through the legs of the Slovenian ‘keeper for 2-0. Ales Kovacic scores a freak equaliser from the halfway line to send the two sides in with the Faroes 2-1 up at halftime.

Undeterred by Slovenia’s increasing ascendancy, the Faroes restore their 2 goal lead, 5 minutes into the 2nd half, Jacobsen’s left wing cross being headed in powerfully by Mortan Nielsen again. Slovenia pile forward still more, but on the hour are undone by another Jacobsen corner, headed home by Mikkelson for a carbon copy of the opener. A penalty by Peter Sankovic gives the Slovenians brief hope with 10 minutes remaining, but as the match heads into injury time, Nielsen exchanges passes with Barður Hansen on the halfway line before charging forward to slot home his hat-trick. The final whistle sounds, heralding an historic first win at the championships for the Faroe Islands who top Group D ahead of England on goals scored.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just realised, I forgot to put the final score for that match - it finished Slovenia 2-5 Faroe Islands in the end.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 3

In Group C, a Mariano Ghezzi double gives a dominant Italy a comfortable 2-0 win over Austria whilst Portugal defeat 10-man Belgium by the same scoreline at Pittodrie, Aberdeen.

The second round of matches gets underway with an uninspiring 1-1 draw between Iceland and Romania, leaving the Icelanders with just a single point from their two games and Romania on 4 points. The other match in Group B sees France edge out the Czech Republic 1-0 to put themselves back in the hunt, a point behind the Romanians. Germany put themselves in the driving seat of Group D ahead of the evening match after seeing off Russia 2-1 to move onto 4 points, ahead of their opponents who remain on 3.

So it’s off to Glasgow at last for the Scots as they take on Greece at Hampden Park, in a hugely patriotic atmosphere. Injury to Richard Rhodes sees Leicester City’s Jim Petrie make his first international start down the left wing whilst Ross County’s John MacDonald returns from suspension to partner club-mate Nick James, the skipper winning his 100th cap, in the centre of the defence. Scotland make the perfect start as Kerr Dodds’ throw-in is headed on by Michael Reid into the path of Mark McGlynn whose confident finish seems him become Scotland’s all-time leading goalscorer with his 31st goal in 93 matches (over half of which were played as a centre-back).

On the half hour, Scotland’s total control of the game yields a 2nd goal as Stuart Reid receives the ball from McGlynn before striking a superb 25-yard effort into the back of the Greek net. The second half is somewhat flat until the last 10 minutes, when an 82nd minute run down the wing by fullback Craig Nicol results in a pinpoint cross which fellow fullback Kerr Dodds sweeps home for 3-0, only his 2nd goal in 61 appearance for his country at right-back. As the final whistle blows, Scotland head to the top of the group, ahead of Germany with one match remaining.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 4

A devastating 6-0 win for England over Slovenia at Celtic Park puts them top of Group A with 6 points ahead of the Faroe Islands’ evening clash with Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff. Faroese manager Adam Eckersley is forced to shuffled his defence due to suspension and injury. Otherwise the Faroes remained unchanged from their 5-2 win over Slovenia.

The Faroe Islands come out of the blocks with all guns blazing, fashioning 3 shots on goal in the first 15 minutes, before Jan Djurhuus escapes down the right wing, dribbles into the box and squares for Allan Andreasen to tap in the opening goal against the hosts. Within 10 minutes, Mortan Nielsen doubles the lead from Runi Hansen’s exquisite defence-splitting through ball. On the half hour mark, Nielsen heads against the crossbar as the Faroes continue to poor forward relentlessly with no thought to sitting back and defending their lead. With the Welsh defence beginning to crumble it is no surprise when, in the 34th minute, Allan Andreasen pulls wide left and whips in a cross for Djurhuus to sidefoot in for 3-0.

Wales’ turgid time continues in the second half, as a Kristian Jacobsen corner is headed in at the far post by Kari Dahl, providing the winger with his 4th assist of the tournament in just his 2nd cap. David Evans’ sending off sums up Wales’ day as they crash out of their home tournament with a 4-0 defeat, being booed off the pitch at the final whistle. For the Faroe Islands however, it is joy unbounded as they become the first side to book a quarter-final berth, in their first ever European Championships, taking England with them.

In a tight match at Celtic Park, Italy fight back from 0-1 and 1-2 down to beat Portugal 3-2, thus qualifying for the knockout stages after Belgium lose 2-0 to Austria. The final round of group matches sees a 1-1 draw between France and Iceland, whilst Romania see off the Czech Republic 2-1 in Cardiff. Romania and France take the two qualifying spots from Group B, the latter despite a -3 goal difference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 5

The conclusion to Group A arrives with Slovenia taking on Wales in a meaningless match at Pittodrie and England facing the Faroe Islands at Hampden Park to determine who will top the group. The Faroes are without their most capped player, Bolton left-back Olavur Gregerson so B71’s 22 year old Kristian Jacobsen comes in to confuse commentators and spectators alike by teaming up with his 22 year old namesake down the left.

Almost exactly as Wales take the lead against Slovenia, so the Faroe Islands make the breakthrough against an England side who so far have dominated possession. Kristian Jacobsen (the winger!) cuts infield from the left wing to lay the ball off the Mortan Nielsen who duly tucks away his 5th goal of the tournament. 8 minutes later, Jacobsen’s corner is headed home yet again at the far post, this time by Barður Thomsen.

Meanwhile, up in Aberdeen, Wales and Slovenia trade goals at a rate of knots, the Welsh leading 3-2 just after the hour and holding on to fulltime. As full time approaches at Hampden Park, the Faroe Islands hammer the final nail into England’s coffin as left-back Jacobsen’s fierce effort cannons back off the crossbar to be tapped in by Jan Djurhuus, giving the Faroes a 3-0 win. So, the Faroe Islands qualify a hugely impressive top of the group, having scored 12 goals in their 3 wins out of 3, England trailing in in 2nd place.

Portugal’s 3-0 win over Austria sends them easily through to the knockout stages, together with Italy whose 0-2 defeat to Belgium meant only that they qualify 2nd in the group rather than top. The final group to be decided is Group D where Russia need to beat Scotland to qualify and Germany need just a point against Greece to avoid having to rely on the Scots. Scotland name an unchanged side from that which beat Greece last time out, Richard Rhodes still sidelined and likely to miss the rest of the tournament. Hugely disappointing scheduling means that the Scots must play at Ninian Park, Cardiff, whilst Germany face Greece at Celtic Park.

Whilst Germany take just 3 minutes to take the lead via a penalty against Greece, Scotland must wait until the 26th minute before Kevin Watson tucks away a Stuart Reid cross. Halfway through the second half, Stuart Reid knocks down an Alan Reid cross into the path of Mark McGlynn who doubles the Scots’ advantage to send them through to the quarter-finals. 4 minutes later, inspirational man of the match Alan Reid again bamboozles the Russian defence before squaring for brother Michael Reid to add a 3rd and final goal. Germany’s 1-0 win also sees them through to the knockout stage.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 6

So, the 8 qualifiers are now decided and the draw for the quarter-finals is as follows (FIFA World Ranking in brackets):

France (6) vs Faroe Islands (34) – Celtic Park, Glasgow

Romania (44) vs England (13) – The Millenium Stadium, Cardiff

Portugal (9) vs Germany (45) – Hampden Park, Glasgow

Italy (10) vs Scotland (1) – The Millenium Stadium, Cardiff

Understandably, many Scotland fans are left wishing that Germany had won their group, leaving Scotland to play at Hampden Park infront of their adoring fans rather than down in Wales. The Faroe Islands have a tough task, but with confidence oozing from the squad, they believe they have a chance to beat France.

With Barður Thomsen suspended, the Faroe Islands recall Kari Mortensen to the starting line-up to face France. Otherwise, manager Adam Eckersley names an unchanged side, with just 6 substitutes on the bench. Speaking before the match, Eckersley confirmed that he fully intended his team to carry on their exciting attacking football against France since his team are far better going forward than trying to sit back and defend. Eckersley was also keen to remind the assembled press of the last meeting between the two sides, a 3-1 win for the Faroes in Thorshavn which formed the launching board for them to qualify for the tournament.

Predictably the opening period is more cagey than the recent group matches, but the match comes to light in spectacular fashion after 15 minutes with a 25-yard drive by Christian Lucas giving France the early advantage. The Faroe Islands respond positively, taking the game to the French, and in the 39th minute get their breakthrough thanks to Allan Andreasen’s persistence near the right corner flag. Andreasen’s accurate cross finds left-back Kristian Jacobsen ghosting in at the near post to score his first international goal to make the score 1-1. An injury to tournament top scorer Mortan Nielsen at the end of the first half is a blow, but Jakup Poulsen is a very able replacement.

Tension begins to mount in the second half as France hit the post on 66 minutes. Faroe Islands remove the ineffectual Magni Nonklett and at last prepare to unleash the talented Olavur Johannesen, injured at the start of the tournament. France attempt to take control of an end to end game, but despite their best efforts, neither side can take advantage until the last 7 minutes of the game when a perfectly weighted ball over the top from Kari Mortensen sends Jakup Poulsen clear to round the ‘keeper and send the Faroese fans into raptures, 2-1 up with time running out. Livingston’s talismanic striker Jerome Gomez does his best to put France back in the game, but as they push forward the Faroes break quickly down the left wing with Allan Andreasen whose cross evades both goalkeeper and defender for Jakup Poulsen to tap into an open net in the 93rd minute and send France crashing out of the tournament. The Faroe Islands meanwhile continue their journey into uncharted waters, the 3-1 win giving them a well-deserved semi-final berth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 7

In the second quarter-final, England waste a host of chances against a disappointing Romania side, but Nick Osbourne’s 34th minute strike is enough to see them through to the semis where a tougher test will no doubt await. Portugal vs Germany was a predictably close affair, settled by a single goal by Portugal’s Vitor Pires in the 7th minute. Portugal now go through to face England at Celtic Park, Glasgow.

The final quarter-final sees favourites Scotland head south to Cardiff to take on perennial contenders and 2012 winners,Italy. Scotland name the same 11 who beat Russia, with Richard Rhodes still sidelined with broken ribs. Skipper Nick James wins his 102nd international cap, to equal Kenny Dalglish’s record.

Italy take the game to Scotland in the first ten minutes, firing in numerous shots and can think themselves slightly unfortunate not to take an early lead. Scotland survive, however, and 10 minutes later the lethal Ross County combination strikes as Alan Reid motors down the right wing and whips in a fizzing cross which Mark McGlynn powers past the hapless Italian ‘keeper. With half an hour gone, Italy deservedly equalise as Nick James totally misses his header allowing Fabrizio Coppolla to fire in a low shot. Despite totally failing to deal with the mesmerising Alan Reid down the Scotland right wing, Italy head in level at 1-1 at half time.

The flow of the game continues in the second half, with Scotland creating chance after chance, playing regularly down their right flank, but somehow the Italian goal leads a charmed life with goalkeeper, post, crossbar or a covering defender all combining to keep the ball out at times. With 80 minutes on the clock, Scotland make changes, bringing on Graeme Meechan and Scott Miller to pep up the central midfield area. With time running out, Mark McGlynn finds space on the right wing, receives the ball and puts in an early cross for Kevin Watson to control instantly and curl around the ‘keeper for what must surely be the winner. With 14 out of 17 shots on target, few can deny that Scotland deserved to win, but they will need to up their game if they are to win the tournament. Next up, the dream semi-final, especially for fans of Ross County, as their club manager takes his Faroe Islands team to The Millenium Stadium in Cardiff to face his adopted nation of Scotland. Yet again, fans are gutted that they must travel down to Wales to see their team who are supposedly co-hosts of the tournament, but it will no doubt help the Faroe Islands.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 8

As the big day arrives, it seems half the population of the Faroe Islands have decamped to Wales to see their team’s biggest match ever. Bearing in mind that the population of the Faroe Islands is only around 50,000, the entire population could fit into the Millenium Stadium with seats to spare! When you also consider that there are just 279 players on the Faroese FA’s books, it is easy to see why their recent performances have created such a stir. Even 5 years ago, no-one could have imagined that the Faroe Islands could become a force in world football, but no-one can doubt it now, with 9 straight wins behind them in competitive matches.

It is 29 degrees on a clear perfect night in Cardiff and the floodlights blaze out over the stadium, lighting up the river and making the arena stand out for miles around. Scotland are unfortunately without the suspended Kerr Dodds who, at 35 years of age and out of contract at Ross County may well have played the last match of an illustrious international career. His place is taken by Charlton Athletic’s Craig Hamilton. Jim Petrie continues to deputise for Richard Rhodes on the left wing. Tonight also marks another historic occasion as skipper Nick James finally breaks Kenny Dalglish’s record, winning his 103rd cap. The Faroe Islands are without either of their recognised left-backs so right-back Barður Thomsen comes in. Not the best of news since he will have to face Scotland's most dangerous player, flying at him down the Scot's right wing. Jakup Poulsen remains on the bench despite his 2 goals against France, but will undoubtedly play a part if needed.

It’s Scotland’s midfield maestro Michael Reid who catches the eye in the opening minutes, crashing a thunderous effort against the crossbar with the Faroese ‘keeper brilliantly saving Kevin Watson’s effort off the rebound. On 7 minutes, however, there is no denying Michael Reid as he steers Watson’s cross into the net. Scotland continue to dominate and double their lead with a simple finish from Alan Reid in the 24th minute.

The Faroe Islands manage to stem the flow of Scottish attacks as the first half ends and the second half begins. Jakup Poulsen, Olavur Johanessen and Olavur Gregersen are all thrown on in an attempt to change the course of the game and eventually the goal comes – on 71 minutes Kristian Jacobsen crosses for Mortan Nielsen to net the goal which gives the Faroes hope. 7 minutes later those hopes look to be extinguished as the Faroes’ attacking instincts leave them woefully short at the back, Alan Reid taking full advantage to set up Mark McGlynn for Scotland’s 3rd goal. In the end the difference in class just proved too much for the Faroe Islands to breach – their successes have come from having a team of fit, strong, pacey individuals with a very good physical presence, but Scotland have the same, but with talent and skill in abundance to go with it. The 3-1 win sees Scotland through to defend their title.

The second semi-final is a bit of a let down after the frantic nature of the first, but with a place in the final up for grabs, neither Portugal nor England want to give anything away. In the end, despite England having more chances, it is Portugal who take their chance, scoring the only goal of the game in the 17th minute to setup a repeat of the 2016 European Championship final which ended in a silver goal defeat for the Portuguese. They will hope that this time they can gain revenge. They will have to do so though in the hostile atmosphere of Hampden Park in front of a passionate Scots crowd.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 9 - The Final

For the final, Scotland welcome back Kerr Dodds for an international farewell infront of his adoring home fans and also replace Jim Petrie with Real Betis winger Stuart Miller. In a tight game, Kevin Watson breaks the deadlock in the 25th minute with a low hard shot past Portuguese ‘keeper Jose Teixeira. Within 10 minutes, Portugal are reeling as Alan Reid sets up Watson whose shot is parried by Teixeira, but only into the path of Mark McGlynn who turns on a sixpence to squeeze the ball home.

The half-time break provides 15 minutes of welcome release for Portugal, but the onslaught is renewed in the second half and within 5 minutes, Steven Miller crosses for Kevin Watson to add the third goal. Jose Ribeiro pulls one back, but Scotland are not unduly worried with so much attacking flair on the pitch to add more goals if needed. The final whistle is greeted with deafening cheers as a nation celebrates the achievements of their outstanding football team. Everyone expected Scotland to win, but with expectation comes nerves and at times the Scots didn’t look like a world-beating team, but ultimately they just had too much for the other teams they faced.

As Nick James comes up to collect the trophy for the second time in 4 years, the whole nation can breath a sigh of relief and begin to reflect on the achievements of their team. Maybe only once in a lifetime will a nation have such a gifted and talented team, and all those who were there at Hampden Park or watched the match on television know that they are privileged to have witnessed one of the all-time great international teams.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Epilogue

For some Scotland players it will be their last championship trophy, and maybe for all if they fail to retain their World Cup title in 2 years time. For Kerr Dodds in particular, the sands of time are flowing quickly and his international career is probably at an end now, but what an end it was. 52,492 adoring fans gave him and his team-mates a 15 minute standing ovation at the end of the match and it was a day that no-one who was there will ever forget. Dodds has spent the last 16 seasons playing in the first team for Ross County after breaking into the team a year earlier. He eventually broke into the Scotland team and established himself, but only truly came into his own on the international scene when Brian Irvine took over as manager and played him in his favoured right-back role. Together with his great friend Nick James, who came through the Ross County youth system, he has played a massive part in every one of County’s amazing 32 trophies during those 16 years and the two of them must surely be the most successful players in Scottish football history with a Confederations Cup, 2 European Championship titles and a World Cup to their name also.

For other players, many years of international football still lie ahead, and who knows how many more trophies they may bring back home. 27 year old Alan Reid is at the height of his powers and is likely to continue terrorising opposition left-backs for both club and country for the next 5 or more years. He and his many Ross County team-mates in the Scotland setup will now look to the upcoming club season as they seek to bring yet more silverware to the Victoria Park trophy room. People always say that football goes in cycles and maybe one day Ross County's domination of Scottish football will come to an end too, but for now the excellent setup and youth system at the club continues to rejuvenate the squad with young talented players to add to the experience around them.

So there ends the story of the 2020 European Championships. The Faroe Islands returned to a hero’s welcome in Thorshavn with Mortan Nielsen’s 6 goals earning him the prestigious golden boot award ahead of Scotland’s Mark McGlynn (5 goals) and Kevin Watson (4 goals). Equally pleasing for Nielsen is that his goal glut has taken him past Allan Andreasen to be his country's all time top goalscorer. Also worthy of a mention is Kristian Jacobsen’s 7 assists from 5 games, more than anyone else in the competition despite only making his international debut in the first game of the tournament. The Faroe Islands’ 16 goals was also the most in the tournament, 2 ahead of eventual champions Scotland, a feat of which they can justifiably be very proud. As for Scotland, there is no reason to believe they can’t go on to dominate international football for the next decade off the back of their foundations of the last 5-10 years.

It has been a nail-biting journey, from the first qualifying match to the final itself for all the teams involved, but in the end the predictions all came true and the red hot favourites lived up to their billing. Scotland won, but it was the Faroe Islands, down and out with 3 qualifying matches to go, who stole the hearts of the journalists and the fans so let the last word be with them - a plucky and exciting team who took their nation on a ride they will never forget. Manager Adam Eckersley has achieved so much with club-side Ross County, but for him, this was the crowning glory of his career, after more than 10 years in charge of the Faroe Islands.

The End

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...