As Red tells Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can kill a man. That’s particularly true of Scotland’s national football team, where heartbreak and disappointment is never far away. There’s a lot of crawling through pipes of effluent and not a great deal of escaping to the Mexican sunshine.

Still, hope remains alive. A draw with Switzerland in Cologne on Wednesday night means Steve Clarke’s side can still progress with the right result against Hungary and a favourable set of results in other groups. Stuttgart need not be the end of the road.

There was no wild celebration from the Tartan Army when the final whistle blew, but polite applause which said they believe the summer invasion may not be over in a few short days – a best third-placed finish could even bring a return to Cologne where they’ve made themselves so at home.

Game morning begins with a media invitation to Cologne Zoo to watch Hennes the goat make a prediction about the score.

A blue double decker bus, sourced from Bristol in the 1960s, is the chosen method of conveyance and its ancient suspension jolts and jostles its occupants at the slightest hint of a bump – quite why 60-year-old British engineering has been chosen over famously world-leading German is unclear.

(Image: Newsquest)

A guide from the municipality talks through the sights with a refreshing honesty. He remarks upon the magnificent cathedral, recounts the city’s proud music history, and explains that when locals don’t like a building they give it an unflattering name: “that one over there is known as the trash bag” he says, gesturing across the Rhine.

The old bus bounces past the train station – “unfortunately some not very nice things happened here” says the guide – and one of the few buildings which survived the aerial bombardment by the allies in World War II. The guide points out the roof where the swastikas have been painstakingly sanded off, leaving nothing but a trace which can just about be seen if you squint. As Scotland grapples with its own historic horrors, his frankness is refreshing.

The subject of Turkey’s win over Georgia arises and he explains on a normal day the second most represented nationality in the city would be the Turks. “Of course, right now it’s the Scottish!”

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At the zoo some fans and some local media have gathered to see Hennes make his prediction. After a fashion he places a hoof on Scotland. A small cheer goes up. Perhaps it’s a subconscious bias. Hennes is the mascot for FC Köln, who use the tune to Loch Lomond for their most famous chant. Later a guitarist will play it outside the Cathedral, a man in a Köln shirt telling him it gives him goosebumps.

There can, at times, be a rather twee ‘wha’s like us?’ quality to the perceptions and indeed self-mythology of the Tartan Army, but it really does bear repeating that despite the huge numbers in both Munich and Cologne there’s been barely a hint of trouble. Today the streets of the city are filled with Swiss and Scots mixing together, cowbells and bagpipes combining for a symphony which is easier on the eye than the ear.

“No Scotland, no party,” smiles one of the volunteers in the media centre. “You are doing so well. We hope you finish third and can come back to Cologne, we would love it.” One local paper, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, adds: “For days now, the Scottish fans have been delighting us with their good mood and party spirit.” Another, Kölnische Rundschau, notes wryly: “the desire for coffee is limited”.

That good nature is put to a stern test when it’s time for supporters to make their way to the official fan march. It’s to leave from Technologiepark, 10 minutes away from the central station on the S12 line, but not for the first time Deutsche Bahn leaves a lot to be desired. At around 5pm a sign outside the station announces that it is “closed for a short time”. Unsurprisingly this causes large queues to form at the entrance so when it does re-open people have to enter in staggered groups. The departures board shows a plethora of delays – not just in the direction of the stadium – and supporters stand, cramped, for their chance to be given access to the platform.

(Image: Newsquest)

It’s hot, it’s crowded and it’s not a little unnerving but aside from the choice language the worst we get from the Tartan Army is an ironic chant of, “are you ScotRail in disguise?”. Things could have gone in an altogether different direction.

As for antagonising the opposition, the extent is a reworking of the ubiquitous John McGinn song: “You’ve got fondue/we’ve got Irn-Bru/I just don’t think you understand/you’re going home/with your Toblerone…”

Such is the scale of Scottish influx – not to mention a short journey for the Swiss and the fact Germany are playing three hours beforehand – there are no fewer than three fan zones in the city. One in the centre at Neumarkt, one across the Rhine at Tanzbrunnen and a third specifically for Scotland fans at Konrad-Adenauer-Ufer.

The sun is setting in the first of these locations, its red glow shining back off Great St Martin Church. Footballs are bounced around, one is booed when it lands irretrievably on the roof of a pizza truck. Loch Lomond is sung, the national anthem is booming. All good stuff but we’ve been here before. This isn’t what we came for.

Then, suddenly, 13 minutes in, it is. Callum McGregor is released down the left and bursts into space. He stops. He stumbles over his own feet. The Tartan Army groans. He recovers, he stabs it back to Scott McTominay whose shot is blocked but… the net ripples. There’s a nanosecond of incomprehension, the ball seeming to have defied the laws of physics. It’s come off Fabian Schär. It’s in the back of the net.

The long-awaited release turns the small platz into chaos, arms and pints flying, flares igniting, no Scotland no party indeed. If nothing else we’ll always have that massive deflection.

It lasts just 13 minutes. A Grant Hanley pass puts Billy Gilmour under pressure and he pokes it to Anthony Ralston. The Celtic defender is third choice at best in his right wing-back berth, he’s willing but he’s in the wrong movie. He passes it straight to the feet of the diminutive, barrel-chested Xherdan Shaqiri, formerly of Bayern Munich, Inter, Liverpool. He’s lost a step, he’s playing in MLS now and not even particularly well but while he may be small in stature, spiritually he’s a Bigger Boy. He doesn’t even break stride, just wraps his left foot around it and sends it spinning venomously into the top corner. You half expect him to turn to Ralston and say “welcome to the party, pal” like Bruce Willis in Die Hard.

The Swiss have a second goal disallowed for offside, Gunn parries well to keep another out. Half-time is a blessing.

Improvement is not instant. The Swiss look threatening once again and Kieran Tierney is carried off injured on the hour mark. A brilliant player, he’s sadly incapable of staying fit for any length of time. The Tartan Army groan as the replay shows a hamstring or knee pop on a heft impact with he turf.

Slowly but surely though Scotland grow into the game. McTominay is fouled on the edge of the box – “he could have been killed!” one fan jokes – and Andy Robertson’s free-kick causes chaos in the box before it’s somehow scrambled away.

It’s McTominay who’s at the heart of it again when his volley is blocked in the box. It looks goal-bound and 2,000 Scots scream for handball, in hope more than expectation.

As the end approaches it’s Scotland who are exerting the greater pressure, though there’s a heart-stopping moment when the Swiss have another ruled out for offside. When the end does finally come it’s a mixture of relief and frustration, but we’re not going home just yet.

What’s needed in Stuttgart will become apparent in the coming days, but it will certainly involve beating the Hungarians. Germany’s sixth-largest city braces for the Tartan takeover, the Magyar nation for some gentle ribbing of national treasures. Chips in your goulash. We’re putting chips in your goulash…