Although only 3,000 tickets were awarded to away supporters at Wembley, some outlets estimated that as many as 20,000 Scots made the short trip across the border to revel in the festivities.
With Trafalgar Square, the usual gathering point of the tartan army – as Scottish fans are called – closed to the public due to the pandemic, those without tickets have descended on Soho, particularly Leicester Square, to frolic in the fountains and consume their fair share of alcohol, these two things often happen at the same time.
Friday’s clash was the 115th meeting between the British neighbors and took place 149 years after their first, a 0-0 draw in front of around 4,000 fans at the West of Scotland Cricket Club in Glasgow, recognized by FIFA as the very first international football match.
Although a century and a half has passed since that match, for fans on both sides, this local derby has not lost any of its luster.
“Every person in all of Scotland wants to beat England, because England is the big brother of Scotland’s little brother,” Robert Finleyson, a 52-year-old Scottish fan from Glasgow, told CNN. Wembley Stadium.
“Everyone in Scotland is desperate to win every sporting competition possible against the English.
“That would mean everything [to beat England]. We don’t really care if we qualify from the group. If we were to win today it would be the greatest thing ever. We don’t really care [if we qualify], it’s very unlikely that we will, but we don’t care. I don’t care if we qualify, I don’t care if we get to the final, I don’t care if we win the European Championship, we want to be England – and that’s it. “
England fan Brady Bowles, 24 from Horsham, has Scottish grandparents, but did not have a divided loyalty before Friday’s game.
“I don’t care, honestly,” he laughs. “I would still prefer to beat them. I’ve lived in England my whole life, I’m English and I don’t care much about Scotland. For now, winning would mean everything, because if we win, we’ll be done. “
Despite the obvious rivalry and the deep desire to fight against their nearest neighbor, interactions between the two groups of fans were friendly on Wembley Way – the famous road to England’s national stadium – with many cans of beer shared. working.
England may have a small historical advantage over Scotland – 48 wins against 41 – but for many years now the Three Lions have dominated this rivalry.
However, no team in history has beaten England more chances than Scotland. “We hope to repeat that tonight,” Finleyson added. “And I’m sure if everyone’s in good shape we will.”
Scotland have won only one victory over England since 1986, a 1-0 win at Wembley in 1999 that ultimately counted for naught as England progressed to Euro 2000 2-1 in total thanks to Paul Scholes’ brace in the first leg at Hampden Park.
“We won’t beat them”
Both groups of fans are known for their self-deprecation, born out of decades of underwhelming performances and bitter disappointments.
“As Scottish fans we are used to failure,” Michael Hanley, who has traveled to Wembley from Falkirk, told CNN. “So we just go to the game, whatever the outcome, we accept it and go home and party.”
England’s journey to the final stages of the competition promises to be particularly perilous; If Gareth Southgate’s team lead the group, three of the best teams in the tournament await them in the round of 16.
It’s fair to say that not all English fans are particularly happy with their team’s chances.
“When we qualify, I know we will face Germany, Portugal or France and we will not beat them,” added Bowles resignedly. “But beat Scotland, be able to get there after what happened at the World Cup [losing in the semifinals], we just want to go as far as possible. “
Others, however, felt decidedly more optimistic.
“To be honest I don’t see it as a challenge,” said Tom Willoughby, 19 from Newcastle, with a wry smile. “No, no, no, it’s a great rivalry and the form is flying away, anything can happen – but I think we will win 4-0.”
Scotland have had many famous victories in the land of English football over the years – perhaps the greatest of all to come in 1967, the year after England won their first and only World Cup – and some fans were surprisingly optimistic about adding another one. to the list before kick-off.
England entered the game as big favorites and fresh off a comfortable, if not particularly exciting, 1-0 victory over Croatia in their opener, while Scotland fell on a miserable defeat 2-0 at home to the Czech Republic in what was his first game in a major tournament in 23 years.
“It’s the same with football and it’s the same with any sport: we want Scotland to win all the time, no matter what, and we hope England will be beaten, ”Hanley added.
“Beating England would be out of the ordinary. I know we’re the underdogs and got off to a bad start, but we have to be optimistic, you know what I mean, never dismiss the underdogs.”
“Today is the day,” added John Watson, who traveled from Lesmahagow in Scotland’s central belt. “It would be dynamite; I would be so happy. Pure joy.”
No goals, a lot of passion
That optimism certainly didn’t seem out of place in the opening trade of the game as Scotland started much stronger on both sides, relentlessly harassing England players when they had possession.
It was the visiting team that created the game’s first chance, with Stephen O’Donnell’s cross finding Che Adams completely unmarked inside the box, but the Southampton forward saw his shot well blocked by John Stones.
Although officially outnumbered by more than six to one, the Scottish supporters matched their squad’s intensity and were by far the loudest of the two fan groups.
It took a header from the Stones – from the whipped corner of Mason Mount – crashing onto the post to wake both the England team and their fans up, but it turned out to be the catalyst for what turned into an electric football first half.
The rain showed no signs of abating and certainly aiding England’s smooth passage, although the players were greeted by a solid blue wall of shirts that showed little sign of breaking down.
Mount and Harry Kane wereted a reasonable chance, but once again it was Scotland that came close to making a breakthrough. It took an exceptional save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to stop the Scots from moving forward, placing a strong arm to his right to deny O’Donnell.
It was a damning indictment of England’s first-half performance that the home side had failed to even get a shot on target when Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz whistled to signal the mid- time.
When Scotland started the second period still the best team, the 20,000 or so English fans inside Wembley started to get restless.
The introduction of Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish from the bench, replacing Phil Foden just after the hour mark, drew by far the loudest cheers of the night from home fans.
It would be remiss to describe this match as the brave Scottish underdog holding on against superior England opposition, as many expected the theme to be ahead of kick-off; instead, the two teams were apparently tied and, in truth, the game could have gone either way.
All in all, it was a turgid affair at times – punctuated by an odd exciting moment – and a draw was unquestionably a fair result.
The point allows Scotland’s Euro 2020 campaign to kick off on the second attempt, while England remain well placed to advance to the top of the group following the 1-1 draw between Croatia and the Czech Republic earlier in the afternoon.
The Scottish fans who have traveled may not have achieved the victory they hoped for, but, given that victories against England have been difficult to secure in recent years, they are certainly not going to give up in the of a draw.
As one fan had said earlier, they will definitely “come home and party”.
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