Gemmill played 43 times and scored 8 goals for Scotland. He captained the national side on no fewer than 22 occasions. Gemmill's most celebrated moment was his goal against the Netherlands in a Group D fixture at the 1978 World Cup. Scotland needed to win the game by three goals to qualify for the next stage of the tournament, having had very poor results in their first two games. With his team leading 2–1 in the 68th minute, Gemmill scored a goal which was described by The Scotsman as follows: In 68 minutes, however, Scotland went 3–1 up when Archie Gemmill scored one of the great goals of this World Cup so far. The little midfield player homed in on goal, played a magnificent one-two with Dalglish, then sprinted into the box and thumped a glorious goal past Jongbloed to revive all the hopes which had died the death this past fortnight. It was an extraordinary goal and an extraordinary moment. Suddenly Scotland were dreaming of glory again”.
The goal has been translated into song, dance (Archie Gemmill's solo effort against Holland in the 1978 World Cup finals will be celebrated in a modern dance sequence performed by 200 children at Hampden Park, in Glasgow. The dancers will recreate Gemmill's feints, his turns, his composed finish and the celebratory punch of the air as he sees the ball hit the net) as well as its mention in the movie Trainspotting, in which characters Tommy and Lizzie make love while watching a homemade porno film, only to see it has been replaced with a football tape called "100 Great Goals" which features Gemmill's strike. At the same time, Renton (Ewan McGregor), who had switched the tapes in their cases and borrowed Tommy and Lizzie's tape, says after climaxing during sex, "I haven't felt that good since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978!" Gemmill first saw Trainspotting on a club outing with Rotherham, and his reaction was: "I got absolutely slaughtered by the lads... to be fair I was a bit embarrassed by it." Unfortunately for Scotland, three minutes later Johnny Rep scored for the Netherlands, and the game ended 3–2, denying Scotland a spot in the second round. Rep’s effort was deflected off Gemmill’s outstretched leg and flew past Alan Rough’s dive. Nonetheless, Gemmill's goal is regularly rated as amongst the greatest goals ever scored in the World Cup.