They’re going home. By the high road or the low road the Tartan Army, so omnipresent in Germany will be in Scotland before long.

At least it wasn’t glorious failure, more tedious failure, a party that’s stopped being fun where everyone could really do with getting up the road. On a night that was do or die Scotland did neither for a long time then self-immolated at the end, and once again the Tartan Army will return with memories and friends made but little to celebrate.

Perspective can be drawn from a horrendous injury to Hungary striker Barnabas Varga, whose condition is clearly more important than what transpired throughout the rest of the night.

At least we’ll always have that 10 minutes against Switzerland.

It had all started so well, the Tartan Army once again turning a German city into a wall of tartan and dark blue, the atmosphere jovial to the last.

In the Schlossplatz fan zone, where a wild ox rotates slowly on a spit, one Hungarian supporter holds up a sign declaring “pálinka is better than whisky”.

A Hungarian fan declares that pálinka is better than whiskyA Hungarian fan declares that pálinka is better than whisky (Image: Newsquest)

“A draw would be the worst outcome,” he says. “If it’s a draw with five minutes to go we should just flip a coin and let one team score.”

The Tartan Army have, of course, demonstrated their commitment in spades over the past 10 days but the Magyars aren’t messing about either.

One supporter is sat in a wheelchair with the Hungarian flag over his lap and some kind of life support system attached. His comrades have hung pints of beer from the cabling, and are feeding him one through a straw.

This is merely a warm-up, however, as the game will not actually be shown in Schlossplatz – Germany are playing Switzerland at the same time so it’s reserved for the hosts and their neighbours across the alps.

Instead Scotland supporters will be shown to the Stadtgarten, around 10 minutes away, where the match is to be shown on the big screens.

For the better part of two weeks it’s been a party but tonight there’s a real sense of nerves. Everyone knows that in a few short hours the dream could be over, thousands of the Tartan Army heading back to Caledonia by the circuitous routes by which they came. Back to Scotland. Back to reality.

The Hungarians depart the city centre for the stadium at just after 6pm – those without tickets will have their own separate fan zone – flares lit and led by some handy looking chaps in black Magyarország t-shirts.

The trouble with Scottish songs, and therefore the pre-match playlist, is that they tend to be about being killed by the English, wanting to go home to Scotland or just being generally sad – possibly because we miss Scotland or are about to be killed by the English.

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As such the Stadtgarden is treated to such hopeful lines as “Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home”, “my heart was broken, sorrow, sorrow”, “you take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland before you” and “I’m seeing a tunnel at the end of all these lights”. Its original intent may have been ironic but you have to admit “football’s coming home, it’s coming home” is altogether more of a bullish sentiment.

Despite these inauspicious augurs the Tartan Army remain in good spirits, though compared to Munich and Cologne there’s palpably more tension. Robert Burns’ ‘Scots Wha Hae’ famously concludes with the words “let us do or die” but the bard was strangely silent on the tense, nervy bit before that.

Finally the teams appear in the tunnel. Scotland captain Andy Robertson looks fierce and focused at the head of the line. Across from him is the Hungarian skipper, his Liverpool team-mate Dominik Szoboszlai, 23, prodigiously talented, and a handsome bastard to boot.

It’s Scotland only in here so the Magyar anthem is greeted largely by silence, before a deafening rendition of ‘Flower of Scotland’. For the last time, unless we can rise now.

Kick-off is greeted with a roar, but then it’s all shuffling of feet and chewing of fingernails. Scotland dominate possession but struggle to break through a packed Hungarian defence. It’s all side-to-side, ponderous. Hungary draw the first save of the game, Angus Gunn dealing well with a bouncing ball. The Tartan Army breathe a sigh of relief.

The first real moment of jeopardy comes on a free-kick from the edge of the box. Szoboszlai stands over it, ready to wrap his right foot around it. The Hungarian captain takes a step back, looks up, strikes the ball… and is denied by Grant Hanley in the wall. That looked to be going in. A relieved Stadtgarden applauds.

A set piece provides another heart stopping moment as half-time looms, Willi Orbán (no relation) unmarked on another Szoboszlai delivery heads over from point blank range. It would probably have been called offside but everyone knows you can’t switch off like that.

By half-time Scotland have had 70% possession and no shots. It’s a bit of a stinker, if we’re honest.

There’s no immediate improvement in the second half, Hungary looking more dangerous on the break while Steve Clarke’s men hold possession without offering much. The fans in the park are getting restless.

And then, with 70 minutes on the clock, football is temporarily forgotten.

A ball comes into the box and Gunn comes for it. He collides with his own team-mate, Anthony Ralston, and also with Varga, the Ferencvaros forward.

Of the three the Hungarian comes off worst. His team-mates signal frantically for medical attention. Stewards stand around with brown towels to protect his dignity, as fans and players alike are frozen in agony. Szoboszlai screams for the stretcher, which is slow in arriving, eventually running to the side of the pitch to help bring it on himself.

The fan zone is deathly silent, save for a respectful round of applause as the stretcher eventually arrives and takes the stricken forward away. Bill Shankly was joking when he said football was more important than life and death, and if you ever needed a reminder that it’s not, it’s really, really not, this is it.

After a 10 minute delay we resume, though God knows where Magyar minds are. Substitute Stuart Armstrong sees furious appeals for a penalty waved away, the Scotland midfielder insisting he’s been fouled by Orbán. The Argentinian referee isn’t interested.

Hungary know they need to win and it’s they who crank up the pressure. Szoboszlai shoots straight at Gunn, Zsolt Nagy heads wide, Kevin Csoboth strikes the base of the post.

Scotland look to find something, anything. Callum McGregor has a shot blocked, Scott McTominay fires over from point-blank range, and then the inevitable happens.

The Tartan Army cheer as Clarke’s men get a late corner, but it’s cleared and Adam Sallai is breaking down the right, given the freedom of Stuttgart. He cuts back to Csoboth who calmly tucks it into the corner. It’s over, and Scotland’s long wait for knockout football in a major tournament goes on.

Deflated, perhaps thinking of the planes, trains and automobiles that will be required to carry them back north, of the office on Wednesday morning, of at least two years to wait to go again, the fans shuffle off into the night. Caledonia is indeed calling, and they’re going home.