Much like the senior squad, Scotland’s youth football teams have had an up and down history, but not without some strong bright spots.
Every one of these peaks at the youth level of course comes with hope that these successes will someday carry over into the national team. Whether that ends up happening or not, they still will always be great moments in Scottish football history.
Relive some of these peaks below in our list of the best Scotland youth football matches of all-time:
1963 U-18 Euros Third-Place Match: Scotland 4-2 Bulgaria
Scotland didn’t enter a team in the European Youth Championships (now the European U-19 Championships) from 1950-1962. When they returned to the stage at the 1963 tournament held in England, their performance was probably better than most expected.
In the group stage, Scotland defeated Greece and Switzerland by a combined 7-1, good enough to win the group despite a loss to Germany. A tough loss to England ensued in the semis, but there was still a chance to win bronze in the third-place match against Bulgaria. There, it was Scotland that prevailed, 4-2.
1982 U-18 Euro Championships Final: Scotland 3-1 Czechoslovakia
The only Scottish team to win a major trophy, the U-18 lads (a division that would become U-19 in 2002) at the 1982 Euros won their group, then defeated Poland 2-0 in the semis. Their opponent in the final was Czechoslovakia, who also went undefeated in the group stage.
Scotland’s only major trophy came at the 1982 European U-18 Championships
(Picture credit: Daily Record)
Played in Helsinki, the line-up for Scotland included many players that went on to have long and successful footballing careers, such as John Philliben, Pat Nevin, Paul McStay, Gary Mackay, and David Rennie, among others. The match finished 3-1 thanks to goals from Philliben, Mackay, and Nevin, and remains a historical win for Scottish football, even over three decades later.
1989 U-16 World Championship Semis: Portugal 0-1 Scotland
Scotland qualified automatically for the 1989 U-16 World Championships as hosts, and made the most of that free pass by finishing second in the group, qualifying for the knockout stage. A late 1-0 win over East Germany in the quarterfinals set up a semi-final showdown with Group D champions Portugal.
Paul Dickov was the only member of 1989 U-16 World Championships to make it to the full national team
(Pictured credit: Scottish Football Philosopher)
The match went to half-time tied 0-0, but a Brian O’ Neill goal in the 54th gave Scotland all they needed to secure a place in the final against Saudi Arabia. There, they would lose on penalties, but the silver finish was an important one for the program. While Paul Dickov was the only member of the starting XI to go on and cap for the national team, manager Craig Brown would of course go on to become the senior selection’s longest tenured boss ever.
1992 U-21 Euros Quarterfinals: Scotland 4-3 Germany
The 1992 U-21 Euros spanned two years and also served as a qualifier for the 1992 Olympics. Despite the long format, Scotland maintained remarkable consistency in the group stage, ploughing their group of Bulgaria, Romania, and Switzerland with 5 wins, no draws, and a single loss.
In the two-legged knockout quarterfinals, Scotland drew Germany, who also won their group easily. The first leg finished 1-1, and early in the second leg it looked like Germany was the stronger side when they went up 2-0 early. But a Ray Mckinnon goal just before half inspired Gerry Creaney, Paul Lambert, and Alex Rae to all score goals of their own in a 4-3 victory. Scotland would lose a heartbreaker in the semis to Sweden, but the run was the U-21s’ best performance since 1982 and remains tied for the best today.
2013 U-16 Victory Shield: Scotland 1-0 England
Scotland went into the final match of the 2013 Victory Shield in the most exciting of circumstances. They played host to the Auld Enemy and knew victory would give them their first title for 15 years. England, in contrast, had won the competition for 12 years on the bounce. A big crowd gathered at Raith Rovers' Starks Park.
The young Scots, managed by Scott Booth, rose to the occasion with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a goal from Calvin Miller. Heroics at the other end from goalkeeper Robbie McCrorie maintained the clean sheet and ended Scotland's wait for success in the competition.
2014 U-17 Euros Group Stage: Germany 0-1 Scotland
Perhaps more than any other nation at the moment, Germany has developing youth footballing talent down to a science. So it was no surprise when the U-17 Scots were listed as 9/1 underdogs against Germany at many online sportsbooks (yes, you can wager on U17 matches, and it can be a great way to earn some side-money if you really know your youth football).
Aberdeen’s Scott Wright scored Scotland’s only goal in their upset defeat of Germany at the 2014 U-17 Euros
(Pictured credit: Aberdeen FC)
Despite early pressure, Scotland held strong and just a minute into the second half were able to claim a goal thanks to head of Aberdeen’s Scott Wright. The Scots would hold onto the lead and win the match, eventually bowing out in the semis to the Dutch. But the tournament and the Germany win especially were positive signs that Scottish youth football is finally making strong progress once again.