“I’m relieved I’ve not broke my neck attempting it. I was lucky I wasn’t offside, I thought VAR might have ruled it out.”
– John McGinn
If that’s not the most charmingly Glaswegian response to scoring a wonder-goal at Hampden you’ve ever heard, then what is?
When Sasa Kalajdzic sent a screamer of a header into the far corner on Thursday night to give Austria the lead for the second time, we thought we’d seen it all before. A moment of ridiculous quality undoing a spirited Scotland performance, blah blah blah.
But no, five minutes later, there was John McGinn, fully believing he was offside, but armed with the moxie to try something audacious on the off-chance.
When the ball flew across a motionless Alexander Schlager into his far corner, we were all unsure what had actually happened. Replays cleared it up though.
McGinn had scored one of the goals of his career…and that’s saying something.
The Aston Villa man had read the flight of Ryan Christie’s hopeful header like a book. As the visiting defenders move out to try and catch him offside, he stopped his run, watched the ball hurtle out of the sky, and pedalled backwards.
Then he inverts his body, throws himself to the floor, and catches it right on the tip of his magical left boot, all in the blink of an eye
All Austria could do was throw their hands up and hope for a flag.
The strike even merited some effusive praise from manager Steve Clarke. In typically vibrant fashion, the Scotland boss branded it ‘good’.
“It’s a John McGinn goal, isn’t it?” he said. “I actually thought he was offside but it was a good decision from the assistant and a good finish from John.”
It was a moment of magic absolutely no-one expected, especially McGinn, whose self-effacing post-match reaction only added to the quiet brilliance of a goal that got his side off to a positive start on a road they hope will take them back to the World Cup.
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With Austria, Denmark and Israel also vying for qualification spots in Group F, it’s only going to get harder for Scotland from here.
Moments like this breed belief, though, and if they can use McGinn’s moment of inspiration to spark another run like the one that took them to the Euros, then they have every reason to be dreaming about a return to the big stage.
And if that happens, you get the sense we’ll be seeing replays of that strike for a while to come.