Football: World Cup - Hendry eager for his Ronaldo test

Phil Gordon hears Scotland's talisman sound an early rallying cry
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The Independent Online
Being in the full glare of the world's spotlight is no place for a shrinking violet, so Colin Hendry should feel right at home when he walks out on to the lush turf of La Grande Stade on 10 June, next summer, when the curtain goes up in Paris on what promises to be the greatest sporting show on earth.

The Scotland defender will have the greatest footballer on earth for company on that warm day, but Hendry is not worried about Ronaldo or anyone else who is likely to be in Brazil's team for the World Cup finals' opening night.

Reputations do not intimidate the giant Blackburn Rovers captain, even the one belonging to the man Internazionale paid pounds 18.5m for and then made the richest player on the globe, the man Hendry will be asked to mark.

"Bring them all on, Ronaldo, Romario, Denilson - even Pele with a walking stick if he wants," joked the Scot. "It's typical of our luck to get Brazil again," he added, anticipating a fourth meeting in six world cups (the Scots have yet to win an encounter), "but we have got to get them out of the way and have our confidence left."

That was something that did not happen in the 1982 World Cup, when Scotland scored first and were swept aside by a Zico-inspired storm, as Hendry watched from the terraces in Seville. "I was there that night with my dad and it was a great occasion. I just hope Fifa take care of our fans and let them be part of this great occasion."

As befits a man who was an integral part of a side who conceded only three goals on the qualifying route to France 98, Hendry has plenty of faith in Scotland's new-found football meanness.

"We have a lot of qualities of our own. We can defend and have confidence in ourselves at this level. Ronaldo is a brilliant player but I relish that kind of test."

Indeed, the Scots' manager, Craig Brown, is hoping that the nerves are to be found in the world champions' camp as they endure what is always something of a taut occasion.

"You often find that the first game is a tentative one," Brown said as he mulled over his task. "Brazil might approach it in their usual, swashbuckling style believing they can walk over us. All I can say, is that we know we are hard to beat."

Opening World Cup games often refuse to go to script, as Argentina found out in 1990 in Italy, when Cameroon reduced the holders to tears. That is something that might go in the Scots' favour and for once give them a break against their nemesis, leaving the task of Norway and Morocco to be undertaken without a shattered spirit as they strive to bury the tag of gallant losers in favour of a first-ever passage into the second stage.

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