20 years ago this week, Scotland reached the final of the Under 16 World Cup, before losing to Saudi Arabia on penalties. A crowd of 50,000 watched Craig Brown’s team come within a few whiskers of being World champions – the whiskers on the Saudi players’ upper lips that is.

Only 8000 or so fans had shown up for the young Scots’ opening game against Ghana, but wins against Cuba and East Germany had the nation engrossed. A packed Tynecastle watched Scotland beat a Portuguese team that included a young Luis Figo, and Hampden was full for the final against a Saudi Arabian team that did appear to be a lot more mature than their Under 16 status suggested.

After the final, one joke that was going around the playgrounds of Scotland was that the Saudis had certainly gained a famous victory, one that they would be able to tell their grandchildren about…when they got home.

The disappointment at losing was tempered by the undeniable fact that this group of young Scottish players would undoubtedly go on to win  the actual World Cup a few years later.

The Scotsman recently reported on the careers of those Scots that came so close to being World Cup winners.

Only three of those in the final made the leap to full international status and, of the others, few have provided any notable impact on the senior game. Striker Paul Dickov proved to be the pick of the bunch, making 22 appearances for Arsenal before going on to play for Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City and winning ten full Scotland caps.

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Two of Dickov’s Highbury team mates at the time, Jim Will and Scott Marshall, were integral parts of Craig Brown’s side but goalkeeper Will realised the enormity of the task he faced in displacing David Seaman and joined Dunfermline. He later became a constable with Grampian Police.

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Marshall made his debut for Arsenal at 19 and played for Southampton, Brentford and Wycombe as well as joining Celtic on loan. He is now youth coach at Brentford.

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Brian O’Neil progressed to the full Scotland team, winning seven full caps during a career which saw him play for Celtic, Aberdeen, Derby County and German Bundesliga side Wolfsburg.

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Of the four Dundee United players in the final, midfielder Andy McLaren was the only one who made it to full international level, winning a solitary cap amidst a career blighted by stories of drug taking and alcoholism. McLaren left Tannadice for Reading, followed by a spell at Kilmarnock but his career ended at Dundee, where his contract was terminated after he managed to collect three red cards during a game against Clyde.

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Gary Bollan spent six years with United before moving to Rangers, St Johnstone and Livingston. Bollan became head of youth development at Clyde but was released earlier this year in the light of the Bully Wee’s financial difficulties.

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The two other Dundee United starlets, defender Tom McMillan and striker John Lindsay both ended up at Arbroath before quitting the game. McMillan started a building company while Lindsay took a job with Tesco.

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The Under-16 side’s captain, Kevin Bain, soon graduated to Dundee’s first team. He then moved south to Rotherham and also played for Stirling Albion, Brechin City (winning the Third Division title in 2002), Peterhead and East Fife. After retiring from the game, he pursued a career in financial services.

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Celtic S Form signing Jim Beattie moved to St Mirren and also played in Finland before beating Hodgkins Disease and going on to make a living as a taxi driver.

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Aberdeen’s Ian Downie played for Dunfermline, Forfar and Arbroath before becoming a postman in Kirkcaldy while Morton’s Kevin McGoldrick quit football at 19 to work in an Inverclyde tannery.

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Midfielder Neil Murray scored for Rangers in the 1993 Scottish Cup final and is now a sports management consultant.

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Scotland team: Will, Bain, Beattie, Marshall, McMillan, Bollan, O’Neil, Lindsay, Downie, Dickov, McGoldrick. Subs used: McLaren, Murray.

by Alan Fairley, The Scotsman

The players recently reunited at Hampden for a lunch organized by the SFA. Video interviews  with some of the players and good quality highlights from the tournament can be seen at the SFA website.

Grainy, Saudian Arabian youtube footage of the penalties can be seen below.