Football: Scotland thwarted by France's final act

France 2 Scotland 1
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The Independent Online
Scotland matched the World Cup hosts in a hard-fought friendly here last night, only to succumb to a penalty with 13 minutes remaining by Youri Djorkaeff, one of eight late substitutes.

France have now lost only once at home in 20 matches dating back nearly three years - to England last summer - but Craig Brown's team had the better chances before Pierre Laigle tumbled under Craig Burley's challenge. Aime Jacquet's team were booed off at the end.

The Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium is one of the 10 venues hosting next summer's extravaganza but the atmosphere for what the programme billed as "preparation a la Coupe du Monde" was far removed from that which will grip the planet. The night was cold and wet, while the new stand rising on one side housed only stewards and ball-boys.

If the sight of Tom Boyd leading out the Scots, instead of Gary McAllister - in honour of his 50th cap - added to the sense of unreality, the sound of drums pounding behind Neil Sullivan's goal in the first half created a certain samba ambience. The teams were slow to catch the mood, with France's most creative player, Zinedine Zidane, often stifled by the man- marking of Billy McKinlay.

Sullivan, nevertheless, was called into action as early as the eighth minute, turning Stephane Guivarc'h's effort behind the post after Lilian Laslandes had climbed to head Laigle's cross into his path. But it was a safety-first measure, for the ball appeared to be passing wide.

A goal for either side in the space of 60 seconds 10 minutes before half time brought an end to the phoney war. Sullivan was at fault for France's opener, failing to catch or punch Marcel Desailly's centre. The ball carried to Laigle, whose diagonal volley was his first international goal.

Scotland's response was as intricate as it was instantaneous. Burley, wide on the right, worked the ball inside to McAllister. He, in turn, found Kevin Gallacher, who cut it back to the penalty spot. Gordon Durie drove high into Fabien Barthez's net.

Sullivan promptly made partial amends by parrying stinging shots from Guivarc'h and Zidane, whose cunning enabled him to slip McKinlay more than once.

The Juventus player was, however, a solitary beacon of invention in a French side which had attracted some restless whistling before scoring.

The malcontents were heard again when Zidane and his captain, Didier Deschamps, wasted free-kicks in quick succession. Scotland, making more of less possession, attacked with greater incisiveness and might have gone ahead after 51 minutes. Gallacher and McAllister were involved once more, the latter crossing from the left for Durie to fire narrowly over.

Despite having relinquished the armband, McAllister set his usual inspirational example. Colin Calderwood followed it with a textbook sliding tackle to unload Laslandes, the French League's leading scorer, as he shaped to pull the trigger. Moments later, Deschamps's goalbound volley cannoned behind off a defender, yet Scotland seldom came under concerted pressure.

Midway through the second half, they were making the better opportunities themselves. David Weir's raking pass out of defence pitted Durie against Desailly in a race through the middle, the Frenchman doing just enough to force his opponent into shooting straight at Barthez.

Durie, released by Gallacher, then chipped a yard wide with only the goalkeeper to beat, before McAllister's attempted lob also sailed beyond the far post. Then came the penalty - but Scotland could reflect with some satisfaction on their efforts against a team widely held to have a chance of winning the World Cup itself.

FRANCE (3-5-2): Barthez (Monaco); Thuram (Parma), Blanc (Marseille), Desailly (Milan); Ba (Milan), Zidane, Deschamps (both Juventus), Petit (Arsenal), Laigle (Sampdoria); Laslandes (Bordeaux), Guivarc'h (Auxerre). Substitutes: Djorkaeff (Internazionale) for Laslandes, 71; Boghossian (Sampdoria) for Petit, 73; Candela (Roma), for Laigle, 80; Gava (Paris St-Germain) for Ba, 80.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Sullivan (Wimbledon); Calderwood (Tottenham), Weir (Heart of Midlothian), Dailly (Derby); Burley (Celtic), McAllister (Coventry), Collins (Monaco), B McKinlay (Blackburn), Boyd (Celtic); Gallacher (Blackburn), Durie (Rangers). Substitutes: Elliott (Leicester) for Weir, 76; T McKinlay (Celtic) for Boyd, 80; Donnelly (Celtic) for Gallacher, 83; Hopkin (Leeds) for Durie, 90.

Referee: A Lopez Nieto (Spain).