Football Euro 2000: History stands in way of Scotland's ultimate goal

t PLAY-OFF SHOWDOWN Keegan's selection pays off as England dominate in attack and defence to leave Brown's men requiring a miracle at Wembley

ONE BY one, the players filed into Hampden Park's plush new media centre. Having showered and dressed and collected their thoughts, they were ready to kick-start the hype ahead of their second confrontation while the dust was still settling on the first. If the party line was "It's only half-time", the spontaneous reaction of Scotland's captain, before he had even reached the changing rooms, rang truest about the prospects for Wembley on Wednesday.

The normally indomitable Colin Hendry, looking as if he had just gone 12 rounds with Lennox Lewis after his first game in five weeks, admitted Scotland needed "a ridiculously impressive performance" to overturn Saturday's two-goal deficit and deny England a place in next summer's European Championship finals.

The record books reveal Hendry's comment to be an understatement. To turn this play-off on its head, Scotland must conjure the kind of victory they have not managed on English soil since Craig Brown carried conkers and marbles in an eight-year-old's short trousers rather than statistics and strategies in his head.

Exactly half a century has passed since Stanley Matthews and company were trounced 3-1 beneath the twin towers. Before that, one has to go back to 1928, when the "Wembley Wizards" won 5-1, for an away upset on the scale now required.

There is slender hope for Scotland in more recent history. After the setback at Wembley during Euro 96, by the same score, the players purged their frustration with what one euphemistically termed "a few drinks". Four days later they gave their best attacking display of Brown's six years as manager, swarming over Switzerland at Villa Park but having to settle for a 1-0 win.

This time, even 2-0 would do no more than take the tie to penalties. However, the fact that England did not add to two first-half goals by Paul Scholes - who demonstrated an opportunist bent rivalled only by the nationalistic bile of certain newspapers either side of the border - gives Scotland what Hendry described as "a glimmer of hope".

Martin Keown, a veritable boulder in Kevin Keegan's rock-like back-line, acknowledged that the Scots would be "wounded" and therefore dangerous, though he was adamant there would be "no complacency and no gloating" from England. "If you lose, you always want to play against the side who have just beaten you. So we need to make sure we finish the job off."

The Arsenal defender, coolest head in the Hampden hot house, had prepared mentally for "a them-or-us situation" by ignoring the prattle of Britain. "I didn't read a single paper all week, or watch any of the television coverage," Keown said, "and I'll do the same between now and Wednesday."

Paul Ince clearly had followed the media, Middlesbrough's midfield enforcer suggesting that Scotland had played a shrewd psychological game before the match in Glasgow. "They were clever the way they put all the pressure on us, saying we had to win, but we responded well."

Ince praised David Seaman, who is becoming the scourge of the Scots, arguing that he had "proved he's still the No 1 goalkeeper in England" after some "hurtful" criticism. The self-styled Guv'nor also identified England's "spine" - Seaman, Tony Adams, himself (naturally) and Alan Shearer - as vital and claimed they were fired up by Scottish attempts to sabotage "God Save the Queen".

The Scots' own anthem, "Flower of Scotland", tells how they once sent an English army "homeward to think again". If we are not to witness another deflowering of Scotland - they have lost 10 and won just two of the last 14 encounters - it is Brown who must re-think and find, as Celtic's Craig Burley put it with an air of poignancy, "a wee bit of magic from somewhere".

His options are limited, although Kevin Gallacher's suspension after a harsh booking by the over-zealous Spanish referee means a change of partner for Billy Dodds up front. Mark Burchill, while offering speed to test Adams and Keown, is still a raw novice. Brown may be tempted instead to reunite Dodds with Don Hutchison, who played and scored together in away wins over Germany and Bosnia earlier this year.

Hutchison has much-needed height but lacks pace, and moving him would further reduce the creativity of a mundane midfield. Alternatively, the Rangers winger Neil McCann could play as a striker, or as a wing-back with instructions to get behind the English defence. Paul Ritchie, who did a diligent marking job on David Beckham, offers nothing going forward, and Brown surely has to gamble on a player who can penetrate.

If Keegan is thinking along similar lines, Steve Froggatt or Steve Guppy would lend a more positive presence to the left flank than Phil Neville. Jamie Redknapp did not find the space he likes in a congested midfield, and there would be case for bringing in Dennis Wise were it not for the suspicion that an atmosphere as volatile as Saturday's would severely strain on his self-control.

Andy Cole could keep his place ahead of Michael Owen, who does not look match-sharp. The bottom line, though, is that the England coach has no need to tinker. His main task is to ensure total concentration when Scotland strive to seize the initiative early on, as an Englishman with See-you- Jimmy red hair did so effectively.

"England took their chances, we didn't," opined Brown. "But we're not conceding anything. We've got a big following going to London and we can't let them down. We must give value. Kevin's team will come out to please their home fans, which should open the game up a bit. It will certainly do that if we score first, and we've an excellent record of scoring away from home."

Brown then reeled off a list of countries against whose net the Scots have bulged on their travels. Brazil, France, Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Germany: prestigious names all, yet probably a red, or tartan, herring. Four of those games were lost and only one, a friendly in Bremen, was won.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy