Scotland vs. Wales: Five classic matches

Kenny Dalglish, pointing - Getty Images

Wales travel to Scotland on Friday, with both teams hoping to make progress towards Brazil 2014. SB Nation looks back at five classic encounters between two of the oldest international teams around.

23 March 1878, Scotland 9-0 Wales

The first two teams in the history of international football, England and Scotland, found a nice competitive balance from the very outset. First they drew 0-0 in Glasgow, then England beat Scotland in London, then Scotland had revenge back north of the border. But Wales, when they became the third team onto the international stage, didn't fare quite so well: they lost their first three games, all against Scotland, by an aggregate of 15-0. This was the third, and it remains Wales' heaviest ever defeat.

Not that this was particularly surprising. Scotland's side were chosen from some of the strongest amateur sides playing the game, including Queen's Park and the Vale of Leven, and their innovative approach to the game -- hey, guys, let's try passing the ball! -- was already irritating English people traditionalists. Wales, meanwhile, drew most of their team from clubs around Wrexham and Oswestry, as the south of the country hadn't really caught on to the sport yet. All told, it would take Wales another 11 years, and ten further defeats, before they managed even a draw against the Scots, and they wouldn't beat them until 1905.

(A general lack of match reports from the time precludes any detailed description of the action. However, Scotland fielded five players all called James -- Messrs Duncan, Phillips, Lang, Weir, Watson -- which must be some kind of record.)

25 October 1930, Scotland 1-1 Wales

Back in 1930, the club vs. country debate was a much simpler business: there wasn't one. The Football League had forbidden English clubs to release their players for this game, held on a Saturday during the league season, and so Wales travelled to Ibrox with nine debutants, three of whom were amateurs, and four of whom played non-league football. Though Scotland had their fair share of debutants as well, they were expected to win easily; bookmakers were offering the Welsh a five-goal handicap.

That Wales emerged with a 1-1 draw -- and deserved better, according to the Daily Mirror -- was down in large part to Fred Keenor, legendary captain of Cardiff and all-round inspirational hard-nut. Phil Stead, author of Red Dragons: The Story of Welsh Football, describes how Keenor took charge:

He spent the morning playing music to relax his team-mates before spending half-an-hour on basic tactical instructions. When the time came to face the partisan Glasgow crowd, Keenor offered a pre-match exhortation: "There's eleven of them and eleven of us, and there's only one ball, and it's ours."

His words worked. The Mirror's match report praises Wales for a "delightful exhibition of the low passing game", and the visitors took the lead in the sixth minute, before the Scots equalised just before half-time. After holding onto the draw, the side were christened ‘Keenor's Unknowns', and Stead records that the hero of the hour was presented with an Airedale dog by a Scottish fan. Sadly, the dog ran away from the Welshman's home a few days later.

4 November 1953, Scotland 3-3 Wales

Back in the 1950s, the British Championship doubled as qualification for the World Cup, lending the traditional cross-border dust-ups a little extra edge. Scotland had started the tournament strongly, beating Northern Ireland 3-1 in Belfast, while Wales had been picked apart 4-1 in Cardiff by England. So it was no real surprise that the Scots -- whose line-up included legendary Liverpool winger Billy Liddell alongside Bobby Johnstone and Lawrie Reilly, two of Hibernian's post-war Famous Five -- dominated the first half.

Blackpool's Allan Brown gave Scotland the lead after 20 minutes, and Johnstone scored the second after 35; the latter "a sizzler" according to the Pathe commentator. Early in the second half, 21-year-old John Charles "nearly broke the net with a terrific shot", but Reilly immediately re-established Scotland's two-goal advantage. Swansea Town's Ivor Allchurch halved it again just after the hour, but it looked as though Scotland would hang on for the win.

But then, in the last minute, Charles broke past Scottish debutant Willie Telfer and scored the equaliser. It was Telfer's debut, and he was widely criticised after the match for not committing a professional foul to protect the victory. According to the Evening Times, Telfer later claimed not to have done so out of respect to the Scotland jersey. He was never invited to wear that jersey again.

12 October 1977, Wales 0-2 Scotland

Scotland and Wales were drawn together in qualification for the 1978 World Cup, alongside then-European Champions (and then-unified country) Czechoslovakia. Scotland lost the opening match 2-0 against the Czechoslovaks, but then beat Wales 1-0 at Hampden Park. Wales bounced back from that loss by beating Czechoslovakia 2-0 in Wrexham, which left the two British teams competing for qualification.

Between the two games against Wales, Scotland had dispensed with their manager Willie Ormond and replaced him with the relentlessly, terrifyingly positive Ally MacLeod. "I'm a winner", he told his first press conference, and a victory over England at Wembley -- Scotland's first since Jim Baxter's jugglery in 1967 -- seemed to prove his point. Meanwhile, the Welsh FA, for reasons connected to money and the maximisation of same, decided to play the game not at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground but in England, at Anfield.

The decision backfired. As the eventual villain of the piece, Joe Jordan, would put it later, "Anfield became a mini-Hampden that night and there were so many Scots in the ground that you couldn't hear a Welshman sing." Or, presumably, complain. In the 78th minute, Asa Hartford threw the ball long into the Wales penalty area. Jordan jumped with David Jones, the ball hit a hand, and the referee blew for a penalty. Never mind that the hand belonged to an arm that was covered with a long, dark blue sleeve.

Wales were first baffled, then furious, but the decision stood. Don Masson sent Welsh goalkeeper Dai Davies the wrong way, Kenny Dalglish quickly added a second, and the Scots were through to Argentina. Confidence was high. Asked what he planned to do after the World Cup, MacLeod replied "Retain it." Oh hubris!

18 February 2004, Wales 4-0 Scotland

There was a time, not too long ago, when Mark Hughes: Football Manager wasn't a general figure of fun. I know, right? Anyway, Wales and Scotland both went into this game having both reached and then lost qualifying playoffs for Euro 2004. But where Hughes' Wales had lost narrowly to Russia over two legs, having beaten Italy in group games, Berti Vogts' Scotland had opened their campaign by drawing with the Faroe Islands and ended it with a 6-0 shoeing in Amsterdam.

So the last thing the fragile Scots needed was to concede after 43 seconds: Gary Speed's through-ball dissolved the Scottish back-line, Robert Earnshaw took one touch, then tucked the ball home. Scotland had chances to equalise, but Wales overwhelmed them. Earnshaw went on to complete his hat-trick with goals either side of half-time, and Gareth Taylor capped the rout off. Poor Rab Douglas in the Scottish net had conceded ten goals in 180 minutes of football. After the game, Vogts reflected that "They were three yards quicker than my boys, and I can't do anything about the pace." "Neither could his defenders," snarked the Guardian.

It was the beginning of the end for Vogts, who was gone by October after a disastrous start to World Cup qualifying. Hughes left Wales in September to join Blackburn Rovers, though it's fair to say that things haven't quite gone to plan since. The match also ensured Earnshaw's place in football trivia history: he stands alone as the only player to have scored hat-tricks in all four divisions of English league football, the league cup, the FA cup, and at international level.

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