There's an awful lot of nuts in Scotland...

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The Independent Online
THEY DID not dare to hope as they gathered in McNeill's Bar, south of Glasgow city centre yesterday. They had come armed with the colours of support but were driven by pride rather than any sense of optimism.

McNeill's Bar is owned by Billy McNeill, the former captain of Scotland and of Celtic and the first British player to lead a side who won the European Cup. It is, in the normal course of events, a Celtic pub. "It's not a place to watch Scotland," one of the regulars told me. He was called Pat and wore a plastic bowler hat bearing the flag of St Andrew. He was not a man without irony.

But the bars of the city centre were packed, many with admission by ticket only. The city had closed early. Rush hour had been at 2pm. By the kick-off the streets were deserted.

In any case Pat's claims of Celtic exclusivity were unjust, as the cheers for Gordon Drurie's sterling performance demonstrated.

"Good on yer, Tonto," the Celtic fans shouted. Tonto, one explained, "as in Lone Ranger". Drurie was the only Rangers player in the team which had three from Celtic.

In the first floor of McNeill's Bar a crowd had gathered to watch the opening match of the World Cup on a giant screen that bleached out the image from Paris with its poor contrast. The faint hope of the onlookers turned to silence as Brazil scored in the opening minutes.

"A disastrous goal, that," said the TV commentator, before his words were drowned out in a chorus of "shut up" peppered with expletives. The measured words were held in counterpoint from the crowd with Scottish flags stencilled on their cheeks and scarves around their necks.

Later the counterpoint turned to amplification. "A suggestion of an arm there," said the commentator at one Brazilian foul the ref seemed to overlook. "Too right," shouted the man next to me.

But Scotland fought back and the morale of the crowd lifted. And yet there was a gentleness in it. Early on a Brazilian defender hooked the ball over his head to safety as their goal came under pressure. "What other country in the world could field a defender who could hook it back like that?" shouted someone.

There was jubilation even when a corner went in Scotland's favour. The room rose to its feet, arms raised, legs apart, whistles blowing and plastic rattles twirling. When the penalty was awarded against Brazil the joy overflowed.

Charlie, who had been drinking since 11am and whose accent was as a result even more impenetrable than that of his colleagues, poured forth a torrent of words in celebration to me.

A man who had had the misfortune to nip into the lavatory moments before Scotland scored emerged blinking in disbelief. Charlie executed a jig to cheers from his comrades.

"If a draw is the final score I'll be on the next plane to France," shouted Leo, who was keeping quiet about the betting slip in his pocket, which had Brazil winning 3-1.

"They were overawed at the start," said Leo, "they gave the ball away too easily." There was cheering, and drinks all round at half-time.

In the end, of course, the consummate skill of the Brazilians showed. Leo fell to his knees, head to the floor, when Brazil scored for the second time. But when the adrenalin at the final free-kick to Scotland had ceased to pump and the final whistle blew, a more measured judgement fell upon the crowd.

Things looked good for the next round. "To have scored against Brazil is like winning the World Cup," said Leo generously. "That'll dae me."

Scotland's big adventure

Review, page 5

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