Football: Scots keen to confound history

FOLLOWING TWO very respectable performances from Scotland, a general air of confidence has settled over the squad and the Tartan Army of supporters as well.

In the game against Norway, there was an assuredness that was almost unrecognisable from a Caledonian World Cup group. With only Morocco in the way, Scotland can actually be looked upon as favourites to emerge from the group, along with Brazil. This is very concerning.

History warns us that if there is a complex and tortuous way of falling at the last hurdle Scotland will invariably find it. Whether it's beating the eventual finalists as we did in Argentina 1978, but still managing to lose to Peru, or going out without losing a game in Germany in 1974, or the goal difference sadness of 1982 in Spain, the pain remains the same. Scottish journalists sat up late the other night working out that, if Brazil beat Norway 2-1 and Scotland draw with Morocco 2-2, or if Brazil win 1-0 and Scotland finish 0-0, then our fate will be decided by the drawing of lots. If this does happen we will lose that draw, it is the way of things for us. Most Scots wouldn't even bother to turn up for the sight of us choosing the short straw.

At Bordeaux airport after the 1-1 draw with Norway I witnessed some incredible sights. Not only were the fans dancing Highland flings to the beat of a Norwegian band, but the odd hardened hack was actually joining in. For the second day in a row the city of Bordeaux resembled one big ceilidh, attracting more cheery tcheuchters (happy Highlanders) than a free bar in Aberdeen on a Saturday night. It struck me that many were concentrating hard on the revelries in an attempt to forget that it could all end in tears, no matter how well the team plays.

But it looks so good. Brazil, already certain of finishing first in the group, should beat Norway - if only to restore some pride after a 4-2 defeat the last time they met in May 1997. Scotland on the other hand looked so positive, so well balanced at the end of the draw in Bordeaux that anything like a repeat performance should be enough to overcome the Moroccans. Part of the reason for Scotland's excellent form in the last quarter of that game was the introduction of Jackie MacNamara. Craig Brown had steadfastly refused to play the specialist Celtic wing-back, even though many back home felt the Scottish players' player of the year was being unfairly overlooked.

There is an accepted wisdom that he is not that good a defender, that those raking forward runs suffused with skill and vision, conceal a basic weakness in defence. Nonsense. Playing against him last season in the Scottish Premier League he was the most difficult player to beat and among the most adroit at positioning himself in a back five.

There is also a widely held belief that he is not physically imposing enough, again this is unfounded. He is tall enough to challenge any forward, he leaps well for his height and his timing more than makes up for any deficiency in bulk. When he came on against the Norwegians, he managed to get forward and attack a high ball at the back post, he beat a taller defender in the air and should have earned a corner, but the referee mistakenly gave a goal-kick. There is also enough devil about him to make it very unpleasant to tackle or be tackled by him. Aggressive to the very limit of the law, without being a dirty player, he is - to use the footballing parlance - "willing to put himself about a bit."

His real talent, however, is to run at the opposition with as much pace and skill as most good wingers. Like one of the few real world-class players Scotland and Celtic have produced over the last 20 years, he shares Danny McGrain's footballing brain and vision. On top of that he scores more goals than his illustrious predecessor.

For a long time last season the then Celtic manager, Wim Jansen, shared the doubts of many others, but he came to realise the error of his ways, allowing Jackie to become one of the linchpins of Celtic's title success. The players in the Scottish Premier League, however, showed that they never doubted his ability by voting for him as their player of the year.

Craig Brown will start him against Morocco and I believe the team will look more balanced as a result, right from the first minute. This is important as the Scotland team have lost vital early goals already in this tournament due to lack of concentration and defensive confusion; first against Brazil after four minutes and then in the first minute of the second half against Norway.

I hope that I am not just losing the power of detached realism, that so many other Scottish fans have lost so famously before me. After all, one point from six so far isn't, on the face of it, wonderful and we have only ever won four games in the World Cup finals to date. However, it looks probable that a win against Morocco will be enough for qualification to the next phase, I believe it can and will be done, despite everything that history and statistics tell us.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film
films

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

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

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album