A bumpy ride: Gordon Strachan and Scotland

By Andy BurkeBBC Scotland
Scotland coach Gordon Strachan speaks to his players during a match
Scotland have had a fairly settled line-up under Strachan

Gordon Strachan has confirmed he will remain in charge of Scotland, signing a two-year extension to his contract as national manager.

Here, BBC Sport reviews his near three-year spell in charge of the national team.

Answering Scotland's call

Following the sacking of Craig Levein after just three wins from his 12 competitive matches in charge, the Scottish FA turned to Strachan to lift the national team and the country out of its latest despair.

"I'm very proud but also my family are proud," Strachan said after being appointed in January 2013. "The time is right for me to be able to take a job like this."

Gordon Strachan is photographed after becoming Scotland coach
Strachan became Scotland boss after spells in charge of Coventry, Southampton, Celtic and Middlesbrough

Scotland's hopes of qualification for the 2014 World Cup were already on life support when Strachan took over, and back-to-back defeats at home to Wales and away to Serbia - losses which the manager would later admit caused him and assistant Mark McGhee to re-evaluate the size of the task they had taken on - ended their hopes of reaching Brazil.

Strachan blooded new talent like Ikechi Anya and Andy Robertson as he put his stamp on the national team. The World Cup in Brazil may have been out of reach but home and away qualifying victories over Croatia, friendly wins away to Norway and Poland and a spirited display in defeat by England at Wembley, brought the feel-good factor back to the Scottish set-up and the fans.

Renewed hope despite tough draw

With the European Championship expanded from 16 to 24 teams for the finals in France, many felt Euro 2016 represented Scotland's best chance to qualify for a major tournament in many years.

Dreams of a first tournament appearance since the 1998 World Cup - also held in France - were tempered somewhat by a difficult qualification draw, which saw the Scots drawn in Group D alongside world champions Germany, as well as Poland, the Republic of Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar.

The first step on the road to Euro 2016 qualification could not have been tougher for Strachan's men - a trip to Dortmund to face a German side fresh from victory in the World Cup final.

Anya gave Scottish supporters a moment to remember with a brilliant second-half equaliser after Thomas Muller had given the Germans the lead.

Gordon Strachan, Stuart McCall and McCall
Stuart McCall (middle) and Mark McGhee (right) have assisted Strachan throughout his time in charge of Scotland

"At 1-1, I genuinely believed we were going to win the game," said Strachan afterwards. "I saw players playing with no fear."

It would ultimately be filed in that bulging Scottish folder labelled 'Glorious Failure' however, as Muller - he would be the Scots tormentor-in-chief during this campaign - struck again to ensure Scotland returned home pointless, but with pride and momentum intact.

An own goal from Akaki Khubutia gave the Scots a 1-0 home win over Georgia to get their campaign up and running and a 2-2 draw away to Poland - a direct rival for qualification - set them up for a crucial encounter in Glasgow against Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland.

A thunderous evening at Celtic Park saw the Celtic neighbours trading blows in a match which although contained infinitely more passion than precision, was absorbing from the first moment to the last.

Shaun Maloney provided the one moment of genuine quality when he curled home the winner 16 minutes from the end to send Scotland fans into delirium, and give the country's hopes of qualification a boost.

Shaun Maloney scores for Scotland against Republic of Ireland
Victory over the Irish was the highlight of the first half of Scotland's Euro 2016 qualifying campaign

"People have been telling me since the Georgia game that it's must-win, then Poland's a must-win, then this one's a must-win. It seems to be every game is a must-win" Strachan commented after the match.

"You never know when the big game is. This might have been the big game. It might have been a waste of time. You never know."

It seemed a hugely significant victory at the time. Worryingly though, results elsewhere in the group were already conspiring against Strachan and his team, with Poland defeating Germany in Warsaw and the Irish then snatching a point against Joachim Low's side in Gelsenkirchen.

A routine 6-1 home win over group minnows Gibraltar was followed by a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the return fixture against Republic of Ireland in Dublin. The Scots were in decent shape, lying third in the group on 11 points, just three points behind leaders Poland and two ahead of the Irish.

Momentum stalls

Scotland players looking dejected
The Scots suffered a damaging defeat in early defeat by September

A trip to Tbilisi to face Georgia was identified from the outset as a fixture that could potentially derail a march to the Euro finals, especially since Scotland's hopes of qualification for Euro 2008 suffered a damaging blow with defeat at the same venue in 2007.

The Scots did not heed the warnings of history as they produced a similarly insipid performance, going down 1-0 to slip to fourth in the group with the world champions up next.

"Sometimes it's a bumpy ride to get where you want to go - we had a bump tonight and we have to deal with that and I have every confidence in the players," Strachan commented after the defeat.

"There are players in the dressing room who I'm sure will be wanting to put on a great performance on Monday night. It'll have to be a great performance to collect points."

The performance was certainly admirable, twice coming from behind to level, but Ilkay Gundogan doused the flames of the Scottish revival after an earlier brace from the deadly Muller.

The back-to-back defeats left Scotland's campaign teetering on the brink, four points adrift of third-placed Republic of Ireland with just two games remaining.

A cruel end

Robert Lewandowski scores for Poland against Scotland
A stoppage-time Robert Lewandowski goal finally ended Scotland's Euro 2016 hopes

Still, all was not lost as Ireland's difficult run-in of Germany at home and Poland away meant a win at home to the Poles or perhaps even a point could be enough to keep the Scots in the hunt - assuming O'Neill's side collected nothing against the Germans.

Robert Lewandowski's third-minute opener sucked the life out of a raucous Hampden but the men in dark blue rallied superbly, with blockbusters from Matt Ritchie and Steven Fletcher putting them on course for the win they desperately needed.

Then Strachan's side were floored by a double blow they simply could not get up from.

Firstly, the news filtered through from Dublin that the Tartan Army so dreaded - Shane Long had put the Irish 1-0 up against the world champions, a lead they would not relinquish.

Scotland's win would at least take the campaign to the last match as an Irish win on the final day in Warsaw would see the Scots leapfrog Poland to secure a play-off spot.

However, Lewandowski scrambled home from close range with the last kick of the ball to break Scottish hearts in all too typical fashion. Hopes, dreams, qualification chances over.

"After working hard for a year and at the end of the year, something like that happens in the last seconds of a game. That's over a year's work," said a disconsolate Strachan after the match.

"I can't remember us getting any luck ourselves."

A 6-0 routing of Gibraltar did little to lift the dark cloud hanging over the national team and its supporters.

The future

Scotland coach Gordon Strachan
Strachan attended Scotland Under-21s' draw with Iceland on Tuesday

Once again next summer, Scotland will be on the outside looking in as a festival of football swings into action.

With England, Wales and Northern Ireland all guaranteed to be in attendance - the Republic of Ireland could join them via the play-offs - missing out on this particular party is tough to take.

Scotland's next competitive engagement will be their opening World Cup qualifying match away to Malta on 4 September.

In between times, friendly matches will offer the Scotland coach opportunities to tinker with his squad with England, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia also in Group F.

But should the Scots reach Russia 2018, his decision to carry on will have been vindicated.