Scotland’s return to a major international soccer tournament after a 23-year wait was perfectly timed.
The first final tournament game ever to be played in a Scottish stadium will see the home team hosting the Czech Republic on June 14 in Glasgow in the European Championship.
Hampden Park holds the attendance record for a UEFA club competition game — around 136,000 to see Celtic beat Leeds in the European Cup semifinals in 1970 — but will only have about 12,000 of its modern capacity of 52,000 filled under pandemic-era safety rules.
That’s enough to make home advantage count, said Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United coaching great who led Scotland at the 1986 World Cup when qualifying was the norm.
“I know it’s only 12,000 people, but 12,000 at Hampden when they get going is like 50,000 at Wembley,” Ferguson said. “We can create the atmosphere, alright, there’s no doubt about that.”
The emotion of finally qualifying last November was shown in forward Ryan Christie’s tearful post-game interview in Serbia.
“I was crying when I saw him crying,” Ferguson said. “Ryan Christie was crying for every Scotland fan. It resonates because of the love Scotland have for football.”
The sport has not loved Scotland back much in a mostly dismal time since exiting the 1998 World Cup with a 3-0 loss to Morocco.
The Scots have never come close to returning to the World Cup. For the European Championship, there were near-ish misses when trying to qualify for the tournaments in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
Scotland’s selection seven years ago for the multi-nation Euro 2020 hosting plan was a gift from UEFA to help reboot. A second UEFA assist was a new qualification path to Euro 2020 that gave third-tier nations their own playoff bracket.