Leave aside television, the telephone and penicillin and Scotland is at its most inventive when it comes to finding new ways to muck up reaching the knockout stages of major tournaments. So, this time in Munich… let’s start with a bang!

Fifty years ago this Friday evening, on June 14, 1974, Scotland played their first game in a major international tournament on German soil and won.

That’s a bigger deal than it sounds. Wind the calendar back to their first-ever World Cup finals defeat to Austria and the national team have consistently fluffed their lines on opening night.

They’ve played in eight World Cups and reached the European Championships three times previously. That’s 11 tournaments in total and they’ve only won their first game twice. The first was against mighty Zaire, the second against New Zealand.

This matters because the opening skirmish of tournament football sets the tone. Win and it gets the monkey off the back. Lose and game two is like walking a tightrope blindfolded. One more slip and it could be curtains.

Scotland have never been much cop at hitting the ground running. Never terribly good full stop, if truth be told. You don’t have to be one of Steve Clarke’s Negative Normans to acknowledge the historical reality of the team’s record at major tournaments.

In total, the men’s national team have played 32 games at World Cups and European Championships and won just six of them. A win rate of 18.75 per cent is woeful stuff and too often the die is cast on the opening night.

Head coach Steve Clarke has been getting his message across to his Scotland players

The Scotland players are put through their final paces ahead of Friday night's opener

The Scotland players are put through their final paces ahead of Friday night’s opener

The Scots have been warmly welcomed in Germany - but they need to turn parties into points

The Scots have been warmly welcomed in Germany – but they need to turn parties into points

Plenty will tell you that the game against Germany doesn’t matter much. Clarke wants four points from three games and that’s a perfectly achievable target against Switzerland and Hungary, even if his side lose the first match.

That attitude is fine if Scotland are happy being the nation who put parties before points. If they’re simply happy to be there and pose for selfies on the pitch, what happens in Munich is irrelevant.

If there’s an actual ambition to reach the second stage of a major international tournament for the first time ever they should be clear-eyed over the importance of taking a point — at least — from the Allianz Arena. Qualification becomes an awful lot easier if they do.

Argentina 1978 was the high-water mark of opening-night cock-ups. Joe Jordan scored the opening goal against a Peru side manager Ally MacLeod hadn’t bothered watching in person.

Don Masson missed a penalty for 2-0 and the brilliant Teofilo Cubillas grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck as Peru won 3-1. A team tipped to win the World Cup returned to a hotel with no water in the swimming pool and, had the Tartan Army got hold of them that night, they’d have chucked them in anyway.

Mexico ’86 brought an opening-night to defeat to Denmark. And when Scots of a certain vintage wake up sweating in the middle of the night it’s nothing to do with the onset of middle age. They’re having nightmares over that defeat to Costa Rica in the first game of Italia ’90.

Tom Boyd’s own goal against Brazil at France ’98 summed up what happens the minute the curtain goes up and the spotlight beams down. Scots everywhere are programmed to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

The last time Scotland played in an opening match in a finals, a Tom Boyd own-goal handed eventual finalists Brazil a 2-1 victory at France 98

The last time Scotland played in an opening match in a finals, a Tom Boyd own-goal handed eventual finalists Brazil a 2-1 victory at France 98

It’s illogical to judge the current team by that standard. If failure was an inherited condition, Clarke’s team would never have won that penalty shoot-out in Serbia in 2020. They wouldn’t have won all five of their opening games in qualification. They would never have gone to Cyprus and rattled in three goals in the first half. They’d have found a way to blow their hopes of reaching Germany in the first place.

Scotland’s mental scarring is nothing to do with these players, it’s all down to fans of a certain generation.

Some of us grew up accepting that mishap was in with the bricks. Even when they did win the opening game, another calamity was just round the corner.

When Kenny Dalglish, Joe Jordan and Denis Law played against Zaire in ’74 Willie Ormond couldn’t have mustered more firepower if he’d rolled Mons Meg on to the Dortmund pitch. All they had to show for it at time up was two goals from Peter Lorimer and Jordan.

Urban myth has it that the Scots took their feet off the gas against a team of no-hopers. They crashed out of the World Cup unbeaten after Yugoslavia rattled nine goals past the same opponents. There was more to it than that.

When money went missing from Zaire’s player pool, a strike was averted when FIFA stepped in. The African champions were placed under house arrest by their own security forces, smoked and drank more than they should have, and went 3-0 down to Yugoslavia inside 20 minutes before the coach replaced their first-choice goalkeeper with a guy who was 5ft 4ins. He shipped another six goals and Scotland crashed out on goal difference.

Even the best dark blue squad in living memory fared no better. When Spain ’82 came around, Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness, Dalglish and John Robertson had already amassed a glittering array of European Cup-winners’ medals among them. They were the Abba of Scotland squads.

Despite rattling five goals past New Zealand in the opener, calamity struck in the final game against the Soviet Union and they crashed out on goal difference. Again.

If there’s a doom-laden fatalism amongst older fans, then, it’s based on cold, hard experience. Leave aside television, the telephone and penicillin and Scotland is at its most inventive when it comes to finding new ways to muck up qualification for the knockout stages of an international tournament.

It’s not really fair to level that charge at Andy Robertson and Co. While the last Euros were underwhelming, the events of Argentina ’78 or France ’98 are as relevant to Billy Gilmour or Scott McTominay as the Cuban missile crisis or the shooting of JFK. All that angst belongs to generations like mine, who grew up fearing the worst and — more often than not — proved to be astute judges.

The Scots will run out at the impressive Allianz Arena on Friday night, home of Bayern Munich

The Scots will run out at the impressive Allianz Arena on Friday night, home of Bayern Munich

Despite the PTSD of the past, nothing beats the hope and excitement of Scotland at another finals. A country polarised by club football, politics and religion draws a little closer together for a fortnight at least.

The only thing worse than being mocked is being ignored. For too long, the national football team were mediocre and, on nights like this, Scots shrug off the cloak of invisibility and feel relevant again.

Even if it’s just for one night, this game against Germany puts the national team front, left and centre of Planet Football for the first time in years and, for the tens of thousands of fans congregating in Munich, it’s a nice place to be.

A new generation of players have an opportunity to confound Negative Normans everywhere by writing a positive new chapter in national team history.

If the 50th anniversary of the last meaningful win on German soil isn’t an omen, then God knows what is.

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