Euro `96: Scots have to rely on auld enemy

Phil Shaw looks at the strange twist of fate that has left Craig Brown's side hoping for a favour from their neighbours
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Andy Goram wore the distracted look of one who was replaying Gary McAllister's penalty and Paul Gascoigne's goal in his head, as if hoping that the tape might eventually show Scotland drawing 1-1.

As Scottish as a sporran despite being Lancashire born and bred, Goram views most things Sassenach with the contempt, laced with humour, that ex-smokers have for cigarettes. But, in the aftermath of Wembley, the Rangers goalkeeper was coming to terms with the realisation that the Scots need a substantial favour from England if they are to reach the second phase of a tournament at long last.

"It's better for us if they beat the Dutch," he said. "We'll have to hope for that and do Switzerland by a big score. Once again it's in someone else's hands." Put simply, victory tomorrow for the Netherlands - or a draw - would condemn Craig Brown's team to their despised historical role of gallant losers.

Supporting Scotland has long been a triumph of hope over experience, to borrow a sagacious definition of politics. Yet, at half-time, the mood of their 10,000 followers reflected a justifiable optimism. As the England supporters looked on, grim faced, the tartan enclave throbbed to "Rockin' All Over the World" and - perhaps a request for Gazza and the Scribes West On Tour crew - "Tequila".

Scotland sprinted to the dressing-room; England trudged off. McAllister and Stuart McCall had dominated midfield, forcing Gascoigne ever deeper. Gordon Durie's pace was embarrassing Tony Adams, even if there was rarely anyone breaking into the box in support. And the wide players, both nominally defenders, were proving more adept at attacking than their English counterparts, both forwards, were at tracking back.

As one Scot after another admitted afterwards, the intensity of England's football immediately after their interval reshuffle took them aback. "That was what killed us," McCall said. "Steve McManaman got into the game and started running at us. That was the difference."

McAllister's miss from the spot, following Alan Shearer's goal, generated sympathy for an outstanding captain whose visit to Wembley with Leeds also ended in despair. Ally McCoist confessed that he offered to take responsibility: "I fancied it, of course, but I might have had the same result. It was a wonder save."

Colin Hendry felt they were so "deflated" by the turn of events that concentration might not have been at its sharpest when Scotland's Footballer of the Year made it 2-0. As McCall put it: "If we'd scored then, we'd have been in the driving seat. But it was a great goal by Gazza."

What irked many of the Scottish squad was that they had drawn with the Dutch, whom they considered to be superior to England, yet lost to the old enemy. "It would have been easier to take if we'd been well beaten," McCoist said. "But we seem to have been in this position before."

The sound of the Scottish section of the crowd pledging undying allegiance in song, long after the rest of the stadium had emptied, was indeed an echo of the last finals in Sweden. Likewise, the failure to embroider acceptable performances in their opening two fixtures with a goal.

Craig Brown, who was then Andy Roxburgh's assistant, noted the similarities when he agreed that his team lacked "incisiveness" up front. Referring to the 60 seconds in which one playmaker compounded the other's punishment, he said: "It's a big morale boost when you score, and the reverse when you fail to."

The Scotland manager accepted that the odds are now stacked against them: "We might not qualify, but we can certainly go out with a flourish like we did in the 1992 finals, when we beat the CIS 3-0 in our last game."

England may yet come to their rescue. But in the words of one sick-at- heart scribe, who may have been watching too much Rab C Nesbitt, it looks like deja vu all over again.

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