Football World Cup Draw: Champions provide ultimate test for Brown

Scotland's opponents
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The Independent Online
Last night's draw pitted Scotland against familiar opponents. Phil Shaw reports.

So the anthem of the Tartan Army's qualifying campaign proved prescient indeed. Scotland are "going to Gay Paree" - to the new Stade de France in the suburb of St Denis - though if the fantasies of their followers had been fully realised it would have been for the last game of France 98, the final, rather than the opening match against the world champions, Brazil.

Scotland and Brazil are no strangers to World Cup combat. They met in Frankfurt in 1974, when Willie Ormond's side had the better of a 0-0 draw, and again at Seville in 1982, a match remembered chiefly for the long- range David Narey goal which gave Jock Stein's team the lead before Zico, Oscar, Eder and Falcao beat Alan Rough.

They were also paired in the 1990 finals in rain-lashed Turin. Muller, on as a substitute, beat Jim Leighton eight minutes from time to ensure that Scotland failed, for the seventh time in as many appearances on the global stage, to advance beyond the first phase. Defeat also left Scotland, by then under Andy Roxburgh's stewardship, without a win over Brazil in eight attempts.

Then again, Scotland have not beaten any South American side in the World Cup, so it could be argued that it mattered little who they drew. Moreover, the first game of the tournament is invariably a tense affair, with both sides reluctant to reveal too much of their hand.

While he would doubtless have preferred Romania and Tunisia - who Scotland drew in the dummy run yesterday but now play England - Craig Brown will take consolation from the fact that they meet such tough opposition sooner rather than later.

Scotland will, however, be confident that their extraordinary run of clean sheets in competitive fixtures during Brown's reign will stand them in good stead. The prospect of Colin Hendry and company pitting themselves against Ronaldo and the reborn Romario is mouth-watering, and Leighton will be as prepared as any keeper can be for the viciously swerving set- pieces of Roberto Carlos.

As holders and therefore exempt from the 16-match round-robin tourney which Argentina and others had to endure, Brazil may lack a competitive edge. Although they won the South American Championship, Mario Zagallo's team were not up against the strongest opposition; the likes of Chile, still embroiled in the qualification process, sent virtual shadow squads, while the hosts, Bolivia, scarcely made for the most testing final opponents.

Given Scotland's history of embarrassments by so-called lesser nations - Iran, Costa Rica and Estonia spring to mind - they may be more concerned at drawing Morocco. The Moroccians, as Sir Alf Ramsey famously called them, are coached by Henri Michel, a Frenchman who guided his country to third place in 1986. Recent results include a draw with Croatia, victory over Nigeria and a narrow loss to Brazil.

The Scots' other opponents, Norway, are competing in the finals for only the third time. With many of the Norwegians based in the Premiership - Oyvind Leonhardsen, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Gunnar Halle to name but three - it promises to be like a typically "British" battle.

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