Football: Boyd despair as Scots lose out

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND WERE condemned to their much despised traditional role in the World Cup, that of gallant losers, when a late own-goal by Tom Boyd enabled Brazil to redeem a patchy performance in an above-average opening to the tournament at St Denis yesterday.

Only 17 minutes remained when the ball cannoned in off Boyd during a scramble in the six-yard box. The goal restored the lead which Cesar Sampaio's simple header had given the world champions with less than four minutes played, at which point Scotland looked as if they were in for a thrashing.

Instead, John Collins restored parity before half-time with a penalty. While Scotland could not press home the advantage they held early in the second half, they left Paris justifiably claiming that they should have had a second spot-kick in stoppage time. Dunga, on the end of the defensive wall, clearly used a hand to block Collins' free-kick. Typically for Scotland on the day, the Spanish referee - who otherwise exerted impressive control - failed to spot the captain's indiscretion.

Had he done so, the contest might have ended as explosively as it started. After a surreal and frankly silly pre-match extravaganza, Brazil did not stand on ceremony. With barely 200 seconds gone, Dunga let fly with a shot that was deflected behind by Colin Hendry.

From the corner, swung in to the near post by Bebeto, Cesar Sampaio rose in front of Craig Burley to head the most British of goals. Ironically, it was from exactly such a set-piece that Mario Zagallo, Brazil's veteran coach, had predicted Scotland would try to score.

The Scots wobbled ominously. Although they missed an instant chance to equalise, when Gordon Durie shot too hurriedly, Brazil's ascendancy was such that it it seemed only a matter of time before Jim Leighton was beaten again.

Ronaldo was a peripheral figure in the early stages, but when a sublime pass by Dunga dipped into the danger area, his mere presence appeared to pressure Hendry into heading within inches of his own net.

Leighton belied his 39 years with a diving save to keep out Roberto Carlos's swerving volley. Then, midway through the first half, France 98 had its first, mesmerising glimpse of Ronaldo in full cry. Starting with his back to goal near the touchline, he suddenly spun and headed for goal like a heat-seeking missile. Hendry and Boyd were shaken off by a drop of the shoulder before Ronaldo's right foot swung into action. Leighton, plunging to his left, saved brilliantly with one hand.

A late challenge on Dunga by Darren Jackson, earning the Celtic man the competition's first yellow card, appeared to compound the holders' moral superiority. Scotland, however, were starting to establish a presence in midfield through Collins and Paul Lambert.

Their neat, economical style contrasted sharply with the range in Brazil's passing. More than once Cafu, the nominal right-back, went scampering after a ball from the opposite flank, but Scotland's growing assurance deservedly brought them level eight minutes before half time.

They had already demonstrated their own ability to exploit the width of the pitch when Jackson put Kevin Gallacher in behind Roberto Carlos. Junior Baiano, with a bicycle kick, cleared from Durie, yet the tactic soon gained its reward. There was little obvious danger as Durie climbed well to beat Junior Baiano. But Cesar Sampaio was sufficiently unnerved to thrust an arm across Gallacher as he moved for the loose ball.

Collins coolly placed his kick just wide of Taffarel's outstretched palm. With hindsight, it was the cue for Scotland to go for broke; Brazil's defending was slapdash at that point, the supply to Ronaldo spasmodic.

A Gallacher cross had Taffarel in desperate straits after 55 minutes, but the blue shirts were strangely reluctant to attack the ball. A sweeping five-man move orchestrated by Lambert ended with Burley's diagonal drive thudding into the keeper's grasp.

Suitably chastened, and enlivened by the introduction of Denilson, Brazil set about wresting the initiative back. Even so, when catharsis arrived it was cloaked in good fortune. Another stunning cross-field ball by Dunga found Cafu galloping up for the first time in the second half. Stealing in ahead of Durie, he flicked the ball into Leighton's chest at point- blank range. With sickening inevitability, it hit Boyd on the shoulder and rolled tantalisingly over the line as Hendry sought vainly to keep it out. Brazil may have one foot in the second round, but Scotland will take heart from having stopped Ronaldo scoring and face Norway in Bordeaux on Tuesday knowing that they can live with the best.

BRAZIL (4-2-2-2): Taffarel (Atletico Mineiro); Cafu, Aldair (both Roma), Junior Baiano (Flamengo), Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid); Dunga (Jubilo Iwata, Japan); Cesar Sampaio (Yokohama Flugels, Japan) Giovanni, Rivaldo (both Barcelona); Bebeto (Botafogo), Ronaldo (Internazionale). Substitutes: Leonardo (Milan) for Giovanni, h-t; Denilson (Sao Paulo) for Bebeto, 70.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Leighton (Aberdeen); Calderwood (Tottenham), Hendry (Blackburn), Boyd (Celtic); Burley, Jackson, Lambert (all Celtic), Collins (Monaco), Dailly (Derby); Gallacher (Blackburn), Durie (Rangers). Substitutes: B McKinlay (Blackburn) for Jackson, 78; T McKinlay (Celtic) for Dailly, 85.

Referee: J-M Garcia Aranda (Spain).