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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

My favourite World Cup moment: Gordon Strachan's screamer at Mexico 86

The goal celebration was as memorable as the goal itself

Scotland's Gordon Strachan, left, scores his team's first goal during the World Cup match against West Germany in Queretaro, Mexico on June 8, 1986. Kienzle / AP Photo
Scotland's Gordon Strachan, left, scores his team's first goal during the World Cup match against West Germany in Queretaro, Mexico on June 8, 1986. Kienzle / AP Photo

I had seen Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland countless times – long before Ewan McGregor memorialised it in Trainspotting, creating a few seconds of Scottish celluloid nostalgia.

But Mexico 1986, eight years after Gemmill’s demon dribble in Argentina, was the first World Cup Finals I had watched live. As a nine-year-old, my hopes were high. I’d grown up thinking Scotland were the world’s greatest team – a 1-0 win against England a year earlier probably had something to do with it. Upon learning England in 1966 had won the World Cup my idealistic schoolboy response was to ask: “How many times have Scotland won it?”

Instead of glory, we had never made it through the first round was the disappointing truth. In Mexico, I thought, this stain would be removed. Along with my father and brothers I had stayed up late to see us lose our first game 1-0 to Denmark. Despite dominating much of the game we had failed to score (the Scottish disease). The insult of Preben Elkjær’s winner was compounded by Charlie Nicholas being scythed down and injured late on.

So expectations were low as we lined up against West Germany, as the country then was. In the 18th minute the dream came alive. An inch perfect pass put Gordon Strachan through. The angle looked difficult. He couldn’t could he? And he did. The screamer Strachan sent past Harald Schumacher almost knocked the German goalkeeper off his feet.

We were 1-0 up against one of the tournament favourites. This was more like it. Capping the moment Strachan performed a humorous, if not very agile, goal celebration. A diminutive five foot five inches, he opted not to jump the then wooden advertising hoardings surrounding the pitch as many scorers had done in the tournament. Strachan instead lifted his leg on to one such board, smiled at the Scottish fans behind the goal and looked on as the Tartan Army was going wild. So were we at home.

And just as quickly – five minutes in this case - we fell back to earth, as Rudi Voller equalised. A defensive mix-up saw Klaus Allofs finish us off just after half time. Looking back, it all seems familiar; we Scots have a habit of getting our consolation goal in first. A 0-0 draw against Uruguay – a match remembered only for 90 minutes of savage tackling that after 56 seconds saw one South American hatchet man achieve the fastest sending off in World Cup history - saw us eliminated.

The disappointment was big, but familiar. But Strachan’s golden moment lives on.

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Read more:

My favourite World Cup moment: O'Leary's winning penalty at Italia 90

My favourite World Cup moment: Zidane's night of genius and violence

The National's World Cup 2018 coverage