McCoist was talking shamelessly tribal gibberish. The roof was off. The rain, having been appropriately biblical, was now an irrelevance. As was football. As was gravity, quality and Covid19. Everything old, new, bright, dim, dark or dead lived in the moment – in the roar.
Hampden. Hampden the protagonist. Football under those eyes, yes, but hardly, maybe? Or is that an insult to the selfless rage? A specialness that’s so deafening you don’t know how to rate it or see it through. And never mind thinking, how do you coordinate? And whose chest do you beat?
That sense of international-level football having been usurped… leaving us or leading us into what? Early-on, arm-wrestling; cheating, or simulation and sliding, by the looks. Fakery and thrust and the cusp of violence. Mainly a kind of mindlessness; a slipping away into the inevitable.
Bloody Scotland were bloody. And Scotland. Defending so badly at crucial moments it was almost unbelievable but cruelly, comically Scottish to those of a neutral bent – obvs. Surging manically and (hah! First half) launching those laughable long throws, so deeply did history and expectation (and the rain and the Lack of Quality and Lack of Options) conspire towards a kind of old-school physical intimidation of the Others. Israel in white: rolling about in sequence – so not entirely naively shell-shocked – but shamelessly (the sly wee devils) also looking to yaknow, play.
McGinn scores a fine goal and every now and again looks – god forbid – to pick up his head and thread something. Gilmore available but lost, too often, in the maelstrom; contribution mixed. Liverpool’s left back barely in the game, or certainly force-less, but Dykes running through the whole, soaking melodrama. Poor then heroic then shocking then at the bloody centre. (His feeble pen, his fortunate goal, allowed, post-VAR, by the ref, despite studs raised chest high). All extraordinary, all predictable.
(For that penalty I wonder if perhaps the official was so bored with Israeli histrionics he simply awarded against the visiting centre-back, who had fallen stricken, feeling the striker’s boot close against his face. There was no meaningful contact, and the centre-forward could not adjust himself to dive and head, but for me it was what we used to simply call ‘foot up’… and therefore dangerous – at least potentially. No goal but goal given. Naturally. This was almost entirely a visceral experience and the fact of slow-motion ree-plaaays and/or civilised consideration by a team of skilled officials was never going to re-educate that).
Scotland won an often enthralling, sometimes dispiritingly low-fi game, by out-gamboling, out-hearting, out-charging their opponents: 3-2, with McTominay chest-bumping in the winner. The lad went through the gears from embarrassment to Braveheart before quite knowing how to celebrate. Then he lapped-up the scrumptious, overwhelming barrage from the stands. The tall, resolute but notably one-paced midfielder knew full-well that he owed those supporters for an assist.
The match then, was a fierce throw-back, with the abundant brilliance McCoist and his fellow pundits apparently saw being surely essentially a brilliance of spirit. Scotland played, as they do – as they need to – with palpable spirit. This is a less patronising assessment than you might think. Some of this occasion was tremendous.