Dons midfield legend Jim Bett was there at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium in Genoa on June 11 1990 when Scotland hit what they thought was rock bottom.
Given it’s now been two decades since the Dark Blues played at France ’98, a whole nation would bite the hand off of anyone offering any major tournament football, win or lose.
However, the 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in their Group C opener at Italia ’90 is still a sore one.
After a great qualification campaign, which saw them finish ahead of France, there was optimism at home the Scots could reach the second stage at the World Cup for the first time.
Bett, having played three of the eight qualifiers, was picked to start the game, which was viewed by many as a warm-up for tough tests against Sweden and Brazil to come.
However, after a poor opening half, the Costa Ricans – in their first ever game at the World Cup – took the lead through Juan Arnaldo Cayasso, who was left all on his own to fire Geovanny Jara’s back-heeled pass past Aberdeen keeper Jim Leighton.
And the Scots couldn’t find a way back, despite numerous efforts on Luis Gabelo Conejo’s goal.
Bett thinks Andy Roxburgh’s national team should have won the game, but thinks the hysteria over the defeat reflects Scotland’s national habit of writing off opponents.
He said: “The team didn’t play as well as we could, but we created enough chances to win the game.
“When you don’t take those chances you can be punished for it and that‘s what happened.
“But Costa Rica went on to beat Sweden as well, so I think they showed they weren’t a bad team.
“People think ‘oh, it’s only Costa Rica, we should beat them’, and on paper we should have.
“But sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you think it’s going to.
“Scotland have a habit of underestimating South American teams. They done it with Peru as well (a 3-1 defeat in ’78).
“These teams have very good individual players and a lot of other things factor into the game.”
Given the weight of expectation to start Italia ’90 with a win, it might be Scotland’s inability to level the game was because of a panic over how a defeat, especially to such “minnows”, would be received.
But Bett says this didn’t come into it.
He said: “I don’t think there was panic. But it was really hot and after a long, hard season at home, the heat can sap your strength.
“When we go behind it’s only after half-time and there’s plenty of time to come back and score, but the team just didn’t get it together that day.
“They took advantage, credit to them.”
Coach Roxburgh told the national press – in fact, this newspaper reported it – that the team stayed up to 2am to dissect the reasons for the defeat.
However, Bett, who was dropped for the Scots’ remaining games before they flew home – a 2-1 win over Sweden and a 1-0 defeat to Brazil leaving them third in the group – doesn’t remember it this way.
He said: “As you can imagine, the mood wasn’t very good.
“It was disappointing, because we knew Sweden and Brazil were going to be really hard games and it makes it harder when you lose your first match.
“You’re just catching up then, so you want to get off to a good start.
“A win on the board is also good for the team’s confidence.
“Knowing Andy Roxburgh he went into a lot of detail, sometimes too much.
“After a loss like that the players know (the significance), you don’t need to stay up to two in the morning discussing it.
“We were experienced players.”
Bett made more than 250 appearances for Aberdeen in the 1980s and ’90s, winning the Scottish Cup (twice) and League Cup. He’d earlier had a similarly productive spell with Rangers.
However, his trips to Mexico ’86, where he didn’t play after featuring in almost every qualifier, and Italia ’90 are coloured by disappointment.
Of ’86, he said: “I didn’t play unfortunately.
“I played in all the qualifying games, which was great, apart from the Australia play-off game when I was just coming back from injury.
“I was disappointed, but (’86 boss) Alex Ferguson said he didn’t want to play too many Aberdeen players at one time because of the press.
“Obviously it was great going there, but if you don’t play, any footballer would tell you it’s not the same.
“There were one or two of us that were quite similar to me.
“I think I should have been playing – I was a regular under (’82 boss) Jock Stein.”
He added: “when you play in qualifying and you go to major tournaments, you look forward to playing.
“Sometimes it’s out of your hands, you think you should be playing and the manager thinks someone else should be playing.
“You can’t do much about it. I was left very disappointed, after Mexico and Italy as well.
“In general I didn’t expect to play a lot under Andy Roxburgh anyway.
“He preferred Celtic and Rangers players.”
Bett, who is now based in Reyjavik, Iceland, is swept up in World Cup fever, with his adopted national team set to open their Russia 2018 campaign against Argentina on Saturday.
He drew a comparison between the Vikings, Costa Rica and Scotland, and why the “smaller” teams seem to do better than the Dark Blues when they were still reaching major tournaments, and on the international stage now.
He said: “I think a lot of these teams have caught up now. They are very hard to beat.
“Look at Iceland – a small nation, but they’ve qualified for the Euros and the World Cup and overtaken a few teams.”
Roxburgh, after the Costa Rica horror show, pointed to “pressure” playing a part in the result and it’s something Bett thinks holds weight.
He added: “I don’t know what it was, but I think there was so much expectation on Scotland at major tournaments that it was too much.
“I don’t think anybody expects Iceland to do well.
“So they can just play freely without too much pressure on their shoulders.”