Craig Brown is praying for a torrential downpour to engulf Thierry Henry and his illustrious cast next Saturday evening at Hampden Park, and it has nothing to do with getting even with the French because of one Parisian jobsworth.
The former Scotland manager was locked out of the Stade de France last month when he turned up to work for BBC Radio Scotland as France put Italy to the sword in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. A security man refused to give Brown his accreditation because his name was not on the list - in the very arena where Brown had led out his Scotland side against Brazil eight years previously for the first match in the 1998 World Cup finals.
Instead, Brown had to purchase a ticket from a tout and sit in the upper tier with the rest of the 80,000 crowd that saw France win 3-1 to take revenge on the Italians for that World Cup final shoot-out defeat in Berlin during the summer.
There are no tickets in sight at Hampden. All 52,000 were snapped up two weeks ago with fans camping out overnight just to secure a seat for the contest that will see the two unblemished records in Group B put on the line. That Raymond Dome-nech's side were one of the sides with a 100 per cent record is not surprising, but Walter Smith's? Victories over the Faroe Islands and Lithuania last month have also given the Scots six points.
Brown hopes that Smith's team replicate the style that inflicted a memorable World Cup defeat on the French - when he was assistant to Andy Roxburgh - when they last came to Hampden on competitive business and stole their place in the 1990 World Cup finals.
"On the evidence of the display against Italy, France are not only the best team in Europe, they are the best in the world," Brown said. "I was watching away up in the cheap seats," he joked. "It was up behind the goal. However, the great thing about it was that I was able to see the French pattern of play far better there than I would ever have done from the media gantry. Managers and coaches do not see enough of the play from down at the technical areas.
"France's use of the entire width of the pitch was amazing. They always had someone available in a wide area and at times Sydney Govou even stepped off the pitch to get into his stride. The French use of space was superb. Their passing was so crisp and perfectly weighted and often they would put together moves of 25 passes, but this was not just simple possession in their own half but something that ended in a goal threat."
However, Brown felt that Italy's failure to compete in midfield is an incentive for Scotland. "Italy did not tackle or compete, not even Rino Gattuso, who usually does it better than most," noted Brown. "I am not so sure that France can play that way at Hampden.
"When we beat France in 1989 at Hampden, it was a filthy night with torrential rain and Mo Johnston scored two great goals. However, the main thing about that night, we pressed them high up the pitch from the start. They had a lot of illustrious players, such as Didier Deschamps, but they could not handle our high-tempo game.
"That is what Scotland will have to do this time. Walter's team got a great result in Lithuania. It made me so proud when I got into the Stade de France to hear that they had won. Now they have to learn from Italy's mistakes in Paris. If you give people like Govou or Henry space to get the ball and turn, they will destroy you."
Brown feels that Domenech's new France, post-Zinedine Zidane, are a better side than the one who reached the World Cup final in Berlin in July. "They are more of a team," he explained. "I think the rest of the players had a complex about Zidane and everything had to go through him, he always had to be involved. Henry is not like that. France will be tough to beat but I also feel that Scotland could finish above Italy if we keep our winning run going."
The only frustration for Brown and Smith is that top scorer Kenny Miller is suspended for the French game. "Hopefully, Kenny will be fresh and desperate to do well in Ukraine," said the man who gave Miller his first cap back in 2001.Reuse content