7th December 1965 Italy v Scotland Preview #5 and Report

Jock Stein Sums It Up

“I hope tomorrow’s Naples crowd is the noisiest, rowdiest, bottle-throwing crowd we’ve ever come across. If they are rioting, it’ll mean that we’re doing well. But if they are sitting up there enjoying themselves, it will be Italy who are doing well”.

The words of Jock Stein in his last meeting with the press corps before the big match. Asked how he rated Scotland’s chances, he said “I think the Italians have the harder job. The onus is on them. They’ve got to avoid defeat”.

During the meeting, there was no mention of the team. With hindsight, one can realize why. Due to injury of one sort or another, the numbers in the pool were reducing. Brown and McNeill were out, as now was Jim Baxter; and they were joined by Willie Henderson late on. Law, of course, was already out, so it was easy to see why Jock Stein held his team news till just hours before the match. And when it did come out, it caused a sensation, an eleven of Blacklaw (Burnley), Provan (Rangers), McCreadie (Chelsea), Murdoch (Celtic), McKinnon, Greig, Forrest (all Rangers), Bremner (Leeds), Yeats (Liverpool), Cooke (Dundee) and Hughes (Celtic).

Parodying Winston Churchill’s famous remark after the Battle of Britain, an evening paper had the line;

”Never in the field of international football was so much distress caused to so many by one decision”.

Ron Yeats Liverpool Centre half in at No.9 after a catalogue of Scots injury

Big Ron Yeats Liverpool Centre half in at No.9 after a catalogue of Scots injuries

It was the 9th name in that list of eleven that caused all the furore. Ron Yeats was a tried and tested centre-half, a ‘stopper’ type who had started his career at Dundee United before transferring to Liverpool, where he was the anchor in a solid defence. He was not a centre-forward yet here he was, listed in that position. Would he actually play there, with long balls pumped up to him from behind? Or did Jock Stein have another plan? Whatever the case, there was no doubt that the manager had created a talking point for the country’s football fans!

There was apprehension among the Scots fans present in the Sao Paolo Stadium. Only one player – John Greig – had more than 7 caps, while the Italians seemed to have experience all over the pitch. And the choice of Ron Yeats in the number 9 shirt was still causing doubts in their minds. Would Scotland go all out for a win and throw caution to the winds? Or would they sit back and try to frustrate the home side?

Almost as soon as the whistle blew, the Scottish tactics became clear. After lining up in the centre-forward role for the kick-off, Ron Yeats ran backwards to take up a position alongside Ronnie McKinnon in central defence. Scotland were going to try and keep the Italians at bay!

And indeed they did, for most of the first half, methodically shuttling back, attempting to slow the pace of the game. Then a mistake gave Italy the lead.

Goal One……In the 38th minute, Eddie McCreadie shaped to clear Rivera’s cross, only to completely mis-cue the ball, which fell for Pascutti to score from close range. Cushions rained down from the terracings as the Italians celebrated. As well they might, since the Scotland side was hardly set up to chase a match. But the players did their best and the home supporters had to wait till near the end before they had further reason to cheer.


The late, great Giacinto Facchetti – scored the crucial 2nd. More of him later!
© Wikipedia

Goal Two……In the 74th minute, Adam Blacklaw collided with one of his defenders in punching out a cross, the ball fell into the path of left-back Facchetti and he lobbed it into goal just under the cross-bar.

Goal Three…..Just before the final whistle, a sideways flick by Rivera landed right into the path of Mora, who scored from an acute angle. And that was the trigger for bonfires to start up all over the terraces.


Result: Italy 3 Scotland 0


It had been a disappointing night for Scotland and the final table showed just how close we had come to qualification;-

P W D L F A Pts
Italy 6 4 1 1 17 2 9
Scotland 6 3 1 2 8 8 7
Poland 6 2 2 2 11 10 6
Finland 6 1 0 5 5 20 2


After the match, there was real despair among the Scots fans, both in Naples and at home, that we had missed out, especially when the finals were being held in England, our nearest neighbours.

The Italian fans, by contrast, were euphoric, their joy evident in the coverage in the press and on TV. The players were feted to the skies, each and every one of them praised for their efforts in the qualifying campaign.

Unfortunately, just over six months later, those same players were to receive a slightly more critical response, thanks to the efforts of a team called North Korea …