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Scotland 1-0 Argentina: When Roxburgh's side humbled world champions


The talk pre-match was of Maradona. Of the world champions. Of glamour. Afterwards, it was about Stewart McKimmie.

Three decades have passed since the 1986 World Cup winners arrived in Glasgow for a friendly with Scotland. It was just four months before they would reach another global final. And yet, Andy Roxburgh's hosts produced a glorious, single-goal Hampden triumph 28 March 1990.

Argentina was without little wizard Diego Maradona, but still fielded five of the XI that took the game's ultimate prize in Mexico. Scotland, though, had McKimmie. And he was the man who made the decisive contribution.

Little over half an hour had been played when Murdo MacLeod, on the left of a midfield five, lofted a ball towards Alan McInally, who prodded into the path of the onrushing McKimmie. The Aberdeen right-back galloped on to it, steadied himself, and laced a thunderous drive into the roof of the Argentina net.

His previous goal? A strike almost five years earlier against Clydebank in a top-flight fixture.

"It was a fantastic finish," MacLeod told BBC Scotland. "Andy Roxburgh said afterwards that it was his two wide players down each side, one crossing it and one putting it in the net."

The contest billed as a friendly had been anything but cordial. Roxburgh sent his team out with a refusal to be cowed by their illustrious guests and tackles detonated and tempers frayed.

One memorable moment for McLeod was a challenge of his on Argentine colossus Oscar Ruggeri. The defender had elbowed and shunted and lumped Scotland's forwards up and down the pitch before the then Borussia Dortmund midfielder decided enough was enough.

"Every time the ball went through the middle, he was just having a go at anyone going into the box," MacLeod says. "He was always getting away with heavy challenges. It was a 50-50 between us - he never got the ball, and I got him.

"You get drawn into that situation. If you don't do it, they'll get worse and keep on going into challenges with you, going over the top of the ball. You've got to stand up to them and look after yourself."

Ruggeri, perhaps, had the last laugh. Argentina careered all the way to the final of Italia 90, while Scotland infamously capitulated against Costa Rica and went hurtling out at the group stage.

How, then, could they conquer the game's elite on that cold Glasgow night?

"It was just the attitude of the team," MacLeod says. "We worked so hard for each other, we battled for each other, and we played some good football.

"There were so many photographers at the airport when they arrived, it was all about Argentina. All the Scottish fans were just desperate to get to the game and we were wanting to get stuck into them.

"It turned out to be a physical game, and when we went 1-0 up, they were getting more and more involved, because they were not used to losing matches. It was a big shock for them, but tremendous for us."




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England 1-5 Scotland: The day the Wembley Wizards were born


The spartan, light-coloured gravestone looks like any other in Fayid War Cemetery. Just one of the hundreds arranged into formal, regimented rows on an incongruous patch of land on the western shore of Egypt's Great Bitter Lake.

There, at the midpoint of the Suez Canal, lie men who died after serving in World War Two. Men such as Major AS Jackson. The conflict was over by the time Jackson was killed on 15 November 1946.

His end came after he lost control of a truck near his base in the Suez Zone, suffering serious head injuries. The 41-year-old died before he reached the hospital.

Some 73 years on, stone A21 in plot six at Fayid marks the life of the military man - his service with the Eighth Army in North Africa, then the Pioneer Corps. But it speaks little of a man better known as Alex Jackson, once regarded as the 'greatest footballer in the world'.

There is no mention of the way in which he reinterpreted the role of the winger in more straitened tactical times; of the relatively enormous fees for which he was transferred; of the titles he won, goals he scored or the controversy he caused.

And no mention of what is perhaps his finest flourish as part of a team that most Scottish football fans have surely heard of but plenty know precious little about - the Wembley Wizards.

'Go to your beds and pray for rain'

Some will correctly state that Scotland gave England five on 31 March 1928. Others might point towards the diminutive nature of the XI in blue.

But how many could confidently recall that the 40th meeting with the English was to decide who would finish last in that term's British Championship? Or that the crowd gathered outside the Scottish FA headquarters to hear the team being named reacted angrily at the preponderance of Anglos in the side?

Or that striker Hughie Gallacher was making his first appearance after serving a two-month suspension for pushing a referee into a bath.

Newcastle forward Gallacher's inclusion at the expense of Celtic's Jimmy McGrory caused consternation, as did the exclusion of other regulars such as Rangers' Davie Meiklejohn and Bob McPhail following an inter-league trial match presided over by the Scottish FA's seven-man selection committee.

Furthermore, these faceless blazers had chosen a callow XI with an average of seven caps - an apparent folly encapsulated by the inclusion of debutant defender Tom 'Tiny' Bradshaw in direct opposition to England's feted Dixie Dean.

Then there was the height issue. Of the front five, Jackson was a colossus at 5ft 7in compared to Alex James (5ft 6½in), James Dunn (5ft 6in), Gallacher (5ft 5in), and Alan Morton (5ft 4½in). And given that these were days when goalkeepers could be barged into nets, stature mattered.


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