Scotland vs Switzerland

Scotland achieved their first win of Euro 96 when Ally McCoist netted the decisive goal over Switzerland at Villa Park.  Events in Group A’s other game made the final stages dramatic, but ultimately both teams were eliminated from the tournament after this result.  

Going into the game, Scotland knew they needed to win, and also to turn over a goal differential disadvantage should England defeat Netherlands in the group’s other fixture.  Scotland changed from their typical 4-4-2 into a 3-5-2 formation for this game, and right wingback Craig Burley was awarded a start after coming off the bench in the previous 2 games.

The formation shift proved to be a clever move by manager Craig Brown, and it was possibly influenced by the success Switzerland’s diamond midfield had in their opening 1-1 draw against England’s flat 4-4-2.

In attack for Scotland, striker Ally McCoist was handed his first start to lead the attack in a pair with Gordon Durie.  While this was their first game together in the tournament, Durie and McCoist were certainly familiar with each other, having combined for 43 goals as Rangers won the Scottish League and Cup double coming into the tournament.

Switzerland coach Artur Jorge fielded his team in the now familiar 4-4-2 diamond shape, while making two changes to the personnel.  Christophe Bonvin was recalled to the starting lineup in place of Sebastien Jeanneret, while Marcel Koller was drafted in for suspended Marco Grassi.

The Swiss headed into this game knowing they would need to win, and England would need to lose to Netherlands in order to advance.

Scotland won the game’s first corner in the 5th minute when Burley pushed forward from his wingback role and his cross was deflected out for a corner.  Scotland would come within inches of converting the set play, and it was the McCoist/Durie connection causing the threat.  Durie hooked on a John Collins corner to McCoist, who had his first time shot pawed away by a good reflex save from Marco Pascolo.

Switzerland soon created a chance down the other end with a slick move that involved central defender Ramon Vega playing a good pass out wide to the left wing, before Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram tipped away the subsequent cross.

The game’s end to end start continued in the 8th minute, when a Tosh McKinlay cross was diverted back across goal, only for McCoist to be denied again by Pascolo from point blank range.

Scotland started the game strongly and were soon on the attack again when McCoist played in McKinlay down the left flank, and his cross was sent to the back post area where Burley fired over.

Switzerland won a dangerous free kick when Johann Vogel fed Kubilay Turkyilmaz on the edge of the penalty area, and Tom Boyd committed the foul.  Turkyilmaz took the kick, and his shot was deflected out for a corner by the Scottish wall.

Scotland won a corner of their own soon after, when a Durie cross was headed behind by Marc Hottiger.  Gary McCallister’s deep corner was hooked back across goal to McCoist, who headed wide.

With both teams looking for a goal to give them a chance of moving into the quarter finals, the intensity of the game started to heat up.  In the 23rd minute, Turkyilmaz was fouled out wide by Colin Calderwood, who was booked after the pair got into a heated altercation.

Before the free kick was taken, an audible cheer went up in the Scottish crowd, as news filtered through that Alan Shearer had fired England into a 1-0 lead over Netherlands at Wembley.  The goal meant that should Scotland win this game, they would enter a goal differential tie breaker with the Dutch to qualify for the knockout stages.  This event possibly marked the first time in history that a Scottish crowd has cheered an English goal!

Ciriaco Sforza took the free kick, but his overhit cross floated out of play before Vega and Durie were involved in a heated confrontation.  A minute later, Czech referee Vaclav Krondl had another tussle to deal with when Turkyilmaz was fouled by Boyd before the pair squared up chest to chest.

In the 33rd minute, McCallister showed his quality and poise in the middle of a frenetic midfield battle when he played a long, searching ball forward before Stephane Henchoz pushed Durie in the back on the edge of the penalty area.  McCallister delicately chipped in a cross from the free kick, but Durie’s sliding effort was saved by Pascolo.

Switzerland responded by winning a corner, with Sforza’s cross being headed high and wide by Vega at the back post.

Scotland took the lead with a beautifully crafted goal by striker McCoist in the 36th minute.  McKinlay won the aerial challenge from a Switzerland throw in and headed the ball in the direction of McCoist out wide.  McCoist headed a sharp pass to McCallister outside the penalty area before making a looping rin round the back of the midfielder, receiving a return pass and firing a wonderful drive beyond Pascolo from 20 yards out.

The goal meant that in terms of Group A standings, Scotland were now level on points with Netherlands, and only one back in the goal differential tiebreaker as things stood.

In an interview with this website, Swiss center back Vega gave some insight into the first half, and an issue that played a direct part in this goal.  Vega pointed out that Scotland coming into the game with an extra midfielder often forced the Swiss to man mark and take away the anchor of the diamond that typically served as a screen for the center backs.  That both forced Vega to mark McCoist very wide in the build up here then when beaten by a step back inside, allowed McCoist ro receive the ball and shoot in an area a holding center midfielder would typically fill.

In the 43rd minute, Burley launched a deep cross to the back post, which Durie met with a looping header that Pascolo tipped over the bar.  McKinlay swung over the corner, but Henchoz blocked Calderwood’s header to concede another corner.  The next corner found Calderwood again at the back post, but he was stifled by Yvan Quentin.  Scotland turned up the pressure as the half ended, and Durie was played clear only for Vega to step across, win the challenge and concede a third corner in quick succession.

McCoist fired way off target in Scotland’s last attack of the half, but manager Brown and his team would have went into the break happy with an impressive first half performance.

Swiss coach Jorge knew he would need a comeback to keep his team alive in his tournament, and made a double substitution at the break.  Midfielders Stephane Chapuisat and Koller were withdrawn, and replaced by teenager Raphael Wicky and Sebastien Fournier.  Notably, these substitutions meant that the Swiss midfield now had two teenagers in the form of Wicky and Vogel, going up against a veteran Scottish engine room that feature McCallister, Collins and Stuart McCall.

Switzerland won the first corner of the second half when Turkyilmaz was tackled out wide by Calderwood.  A short corner routine ended in Wicky’s long range shot being picked up comfortably by Goram.

Good news came for Scotland from the group’s other game, when word filtered through that Teddy Sheringham had doubled England’s lead against the Netherlands at Wembley to further tighten up the standings in Group A.  Another goal for Scotland would now render the tiebreaker dead even, and Collins searched for one as he picked up a Boyd throw in before firing wide from distance.

Switzerland carved out their first chance of the second half when Quentin raided down the left flank before sending over a cross for Bonvin, who fired wide after finding a pocket of open space between Calderwood and Colin Hendry.

Scotland would soon be back on the offensive when Burley beat two defenders before swinging a cross over to McCoist, only for Vega to intervene and head behind for a corner.

Scotland manager Brown made his first substitution, and it was an attacking one, bringing off wingback McKinlay and bringing on Scott Booth, who had started at striker during Scotland’s opening game, to fill the wide role.

More audible joy could be heard in the Scotland crowd over developments in the group’s other game at Wembley.  Two goals in five minutes for England meant they now owned a 4-0 lead over Netherlands, and Scotland would now qualify for the quarter finals as things stood, courtesy of the goal differential tie breaker.

Buoyed by the good news, Scotland pushed forward and Durie cut back to Collins on the edge of the area, who fired a shot over the bar.  Durie soon had a chance of his own from the edge of the area, but his well struck effort was right at Pascolo.

Scotland continued to press for a second goal, and Vega dispossessed McCallister in the area only for Booth to win the ball back and feed McCallister to get a shot off.  The shot was denied by Pascolo who managed to come up once again with the save.

Scotland won a corner when Quentin cut in front of a cross to divert the ball behind.  The corner by Collins was collected by Pascolo, who launched a swift counter attack by rolling the ball to Turkyilmaz.  Impressive striker Turkyilmaz drove forward before feeding Fournier, Hendry made the challenge as Fournier dribbled into the penalty area to win Switzerland a corner of their own.  The cross was cleared and Scotland would carve out another scoring chance at the other end less than a minute later.  Burley scooped a pass to Booth down the right flank, and Booth latched on to it by firing a volley from a tight angle that Pascolo tipped over the crossbar.

Booth was proving a shrewd substitution by Brown, and continued to impact the attack by heading wide a McAllister cross in the 79th minute.

The Group A landscape would shift once more thanks to events in London, and this time it was not good news for Scotland.  Late substitute Patrick Kluivery to pull the score back to 4-1, and while that goal was merely a consolation in terms of the game result, it did mean that the Dutch would now sneak through on the tiebreaker as things stood.

Switzerland were still looking for a comeback in this game, and manager Jorge brought on Alexandre Comisetti for defender Quentin in the 81st minute.

With Scotland now in desperate need of a second goal to stay alive in the tournament, and manager Brown switched to a back three to chase the game, deploying Hendry up front to increase Scotland’s aerial power.  Chelsea forward John Spencer was also brought on in the 84th minute, with goal scorer McCoist giving way.  Spencer almost scored with hsi first touch of the ball, pouncing on a Calderwood knockdown before firing a shot off the outside of the goalpost.

As they desperately searched for the crucial second goal, Scotland were reminded to remain alert at the other end when Switzerland swung over a left wing cross and Goram was forced to claw away a Turkyilmaz header, before Burley hacked the ball clear for a corner.

As time ticked down, Scotland won an 88th minute free kick out wide when McCall was fouled by Henchoz.  McCallister swung over the free kick, but Durie could only deflect it out for a SWitzerland throw under a good aerial challenge from Henchoz.  In the next attack, Spencer played a through ball, but Booth charged offside as Scotland tried in vain to break down the Swiss defense.

Switzerland midfielder Fournier conceded an injury time corner as Scotland continued to push, but Pascolo punched away the cross.  Scotland threw numbers forward and pumped a deep cross to the back post soon after, but Pascolo was there again to claim Hendry’s header back across goal.


Scotland managed to register their first win of the tournament, but were left with a hollow feeling after Kluivert’s late goal had seen the Dutch qualify as Group A runners up by the skin of their teeth.

A strong tactical move by Brown had played off in this game, and McAllister had consistently proved himself as one of the best players at the tournament.  Sadly, that would not be enough and Scotland were condemned to a group stage exit.

Switzerland went out of the tournament in disappointing fashion, after showing real promise in their opener when they held host nation England to a 1-1 draw.  Swiss manager Jorge would be left wondering how things may have turned out had an injury time Seaman save not rescued a point for England in the opener. 

Striker Turkyilmaz scored the Swiss equalizer against England, and was Switzerland’s most impressive performer throughout the tournament.


36’ SCO Ally McCoist (Gary McAllister) 1-0


#9 CF Ally McCoist (Scotland) – Handed his first start of the tournament, the energy and movement of McCoist threatened Switzerland throughout.  Started and finished the combination with McCallister that resulted in his excellent winning goal.



3:  CF Ally McCoist – Man of the Match.

2:  CM Gary McCallister – Oozed composure and quality on the ball, set up McCoist’s winner and consistently sparked Scottish attacks with creative forward passes.

1:  GK Andy Goram – Came up with a number of saves when needed to preserve three points for Scotland.


3:  GK Marco Pascolo – Kept the game alive for Switzerland with a number of short range and reflex stops.  Also showed good distribution and awareness to start Swiss counter attacks on multiple occasions.

2:  CF Kubilay Turkyilmaz – Once again the spearhead of the Switzerland attack.  The hard running and strength of Turkyilmaz kept Scotland on guard, and was denied a second half equalizer by a good Goram save.

1:  CD Ramon Vega – The ball winning center half made a high volume of blocks and aerial clearances, particularly in the second half when Scotland adopted a more direct approach chasing the second goal.

About the Author

Picture of Stewart Flaherty

Stewart Flaherty

Stewart is a native of Middlesbrough, England, and is a graduate of Loughborough University with a master's degree in sport psychology. Stewart has an extensive background in football, working with a variety of NCAA college soccer programs, as well as working with several leading youth clubs in the USA. Stewart is currently serving as Technical Director within a men's professional soccer club.

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