Friday, 6 June 2014

Fantasy Nostalgia: How to get Scotland into World Cup Round 2...

Football is full of traditions. Whether it's the need to go for a pre-match pint of beer or the irresistible desire to support the little team in a 'David v Goliath' cup tie, there are some things we can't help ourselves doing where football's concerned.

Another tradition, especially if you're English, is to remind those kindly Scottish folk that their national team are as likely to reach the Second Round of the World Cup as it is of winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. It's an old joke and getting more and more worn out with every passing year.

Yet a friend of The Football Attic, Andrew Rockall, seems to have come up with a valid reason why Scotland failed to progress beyond the group stage of at least one World Cup Finals. Andrew writes:

'Have you ever wondered how the 1982 World Cup would have played out if they'd used a different format - say the one used in 1986?'

If we're honest, we hadn't. Some of you will remember that the 1982 tournament employed a system whereby the winners and runners-up of the six First Round groups qualified for the Second Round, who in turn were distributed among four groups of three. After that, the winners of the Second Round groups went through to the Semi Finals and so on, thus:

For the 1986 World Cup, the format was tweaked... or 'made more complicated' as people usually remember it. In the First Round, the top two from each of the six groups progressed along with the four best teams that finished third in their groups. After that, a plain and simple knockout format was brought in, but it's that First Round change that prompted Andrew to wonder how things might have been if the 1986 format was applied to the 1982 competition:

"I have followed the logic of the draw from 1986 to get the four best 3rd-placed qualifiers from each of the original groups. I ranked them 1 to 4 by points and goal difference..."

The result is a knockout stage for the 1982 World Cup that looks very different from the one shown above:

Andrew speculates which teams would have won each of the matches from the Second Round onwards and estimates "a France-Italy final, with France winning. They'd played each other in February that year, with the French winning 2-0."

But wait a minute - what's that curious blue flag with a white 'X' on it?  Yes folks, that's Scotland, and according to Andrew's calculations they'd have progressed from their First Round group in 1982 if the 1986 system had been in use. A meeting with West Germany may well have snuffed out any hopes they'd have had of winning the trophy, but even so... this could have been history being made right before our very eyes.

And so we thank Andrew Rockall for this precious glimpse at what might have been. Next week: The Football Attic looks at the effect of goal-line technology on England's victory over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final...


  1. Ah yes, but this removes the variable of Scotland knowing they could reach the second round. I remember watching the Uruguay game in Mexico with them down to 10 men for 89 minutes knowing all Scotland needed was 1 goal. Did we score? Of course not, the knowledge that we could reach round 2 proved just to much of a burden. Similarly at Italia 90, we just could not hold on (at least Jim Leighton couldn't) to keep a point against Brazil that would have seen us through.

    Even then we had a chance but a last minute lapse by the South Korean defence in yet another Uruguay game meant we went out two days later.

    Whether it is Bremner's shin, Hansen's lack of peripheral vision or Seaman's bandy legs, we are destined to feel the pain of unfortunate failure - or at least we were. What wouldn't we give to be recounting tails of heroic failure in Brazil this summer.

    1. Point taken on all of the above, Flicktokick. Allow us a moment of naive fantasy at the expense of life's blunt realities... :)

  2. This is inaccurate according to the FIFA regulations of the 86 tournament; it has not taken into account from which groups the four 3rd placed teams advanced from. Intriguingly, the 2nd round ties when correctly calculated would've included England vs Scotland!

    1. Excuse me while I go and sack Andrew Rockall... :-)

    2. This can be checked against the criteria for Euro 2016 which is the same as that used for world cups 1986 - 1994. With Cameroon & Czech failing to progress from Groups A and D the fixtures would be:

      WA v 3E Poland v Yugoslavia
      WB v 3C WGermany v Hungary
      WC v 3B Belgium v Algeria
      WD v 3F England v Scotland

  3. As I mention above I ranked all the 3rd place nations by points and then goal difference. Algeria had 4pts zero, Hungary 3pts +6, Scotland 3pts zero (8 goals scored) and Yugoslavia 3pts zero (2 goals scored). Cameroon 3pts zero (1 goal scored) and Czechoslovakia 2pts -2 miss out.

    I then put these teams in the place of the 4 highest ranked sides from 86 Belgium 3pts zero, Poland 3pts -2, Bulgaria 2pts -2, Uruguay 2pts - 5.

    In any event FIFA regulations do not apply in Fantasy Nostalgia World Cups!

    Andrew Rockall (re-instated)

    1. The ranking of the wee place teams had nothing to do with their opponents in the end round. If it was there would be the chance of playing the winner of the 1st round group they qualified from. The fixtures are calculated according to a matrix which can be obtained from Euro 2016 regulations

    2. As stated above this is 'fantasy' nostalgia. Posted in June 2014 I had no access to UEFA's 2016 Regulations therefore I ranked each of the teams that qualified in third place in 86 and replaced those in the same order with the third placed teams in 1982.