Football: Calderwood shines as Brazil do just enough

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The Independent Online
ON WEDNESDAY I predicted a 2-0 win for Brazil, with the world champions doing just enough to give themselves a little cushion. I was sure they would not extend themselves any further than necessary, because they expect six more games over the next month.

In the end, Scotland did manage to score a goal and in the excitement of the event the defeat seemed very harsh. The Scots passed well after a very shaky start indeed. Inexcusable and uncharacteristic defending from a routine near-post corner, rattled their confidence. Also the fact that the Scots were playing an adapted system was adding to the general confusion.

It took 20 minutes and a little tinkering with the tactics for the nervous Scots to look more comfortable and get back their more familiar passing game. They were fortunate that the Brazilians hadn't scored from their three or four good chances in this period.

They then began to pass well and made a few chances. Overall, there were 11 Scottish attempts on goal with six on target, a good return against top class opposition. It was a brave decision by Craig Brown to field three recognised forwards in Darren Jackson, Gordon Durie and Kevin Gallacher, but it necessitated the departure from the more familiar 3-5-2 formation.

It took the intervention after 20 minutes by Colin Hendry to drag Paul Lambert back into the hole in front of the defence before the balance was restored. Scotland then grew in confidence with Gallacher continuing to show why he is so highly rated in England and Durie producing a typically fine performance of strength and bravery.

The Brazilians didn't seem to care much that the Scots were slowly getting back into the game. A mind-set had infiltrated the Brazilian team, who believed the game was already won. I watched them train the day before and in that short session they looked a keener and more lively group of players. By the time the Scots snatched a deserved equaliser, the Brazilians had lost control of the game.

The challenge on Gallacher which led to the penalty was sloppy and totally unnecessary. A more concentrated defender would not have been so careless. This summed up the lax Brazilian attitude. John Collins made his last meaningful contribution to the game by striking home the penalty. His fading influence in the second half put paid to any real chance of Craig Brown's men going on to win the game. The Monaco midfielder is Scotland's most complete footballer at the moment and any success this month will depend on him producing his best work over 90 minutes.

After the game, Craig Brown gave a fairly downbeat reflection of the team performance to the press. He will have taken a far more positive line back in the dressing-room. Especially when addressing his central defensive group of Colin Calderwood, Tom Boyd and Colin Hendry. Calderwood, in particular, scarcely put a foot wrong, even though he, like the other two, were outrageously tricked on several occasions by the peerless Ronaldo. However, there is no shame in that because no defender in the world can stop the 21-year-old, twice World Player of the Year, when he is in full flow. Calderwood can be proud that Ronaldo failed to score in an international game, a very unusual occurrence. The Spurs defender can count on a starting place against Norway.

Where Scotland were regularly troubled was down the left flank. Christian Dailly attacked promisingly but couldn't get back quick enough to stop the threat from the extremely fit Cafu. It would be simple to blame the young Derby defender, especially as the winning goal came from precisely that area, but it may be the case that Brown asked him to play as far forward as possible, leaving gaps for the Roma defender to gallop into. Cafu was magnificent and, in retrospect, it may well have been wiser to play a specialist wing-back against him as opposed to a converted centre- back. Celtic's Tosh McKinlay could find himself starting against Norway and the versatile Dailly's World Cup may continue in another position.

Scotland's problem in progressing may be the same as it ever was. When they are faced by a truly world-class player on his game they aren't capable of snuffing him out for a whole 90 minutes. Happily, Norway and Morocco do not have this type of individual, so there is still a very good chance of progressing if they beat Egil Olsen's team on Tuesday.

The Brazilians, despite their victory, were generally disappointing. On this evidence, only Ronaldo, Cafu and Dunga performed sporadically to the expected standard. They rarely looked like a team, rather a group of disparate, if very talented, individuals. If you just look at this performance, it would seem that they are well short of the necessary qualities to retain the World Cup, but I think this showing was deceptive. They didn't stretch themselves beyond what was necessary. Each time they got the lead they noticeably took the foot off the gas.

In the end, they didn't need a two-goal cushion to feel comfortable against Scotland's finest, one goal was enough. It may come to pass that Scotland's single goal against Brazil could prove very important if the group, as many expect, is finally decided on goal difference.