Scotland 1 France 0: Caldwell eclipses Henry's sun kings

Celtic midfielder's blazing finish kicks off the celebrations as Scotland dream again
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The Independent Football

Gary Caldwell stole Thierry Henry's thunder yesterday as Scotland produced the most remarkable turnaround to stun France here and seize leadership of the Euro 2008 qualifying group B campaign. It was the Celtic defender, not his much vaunted opponent, who struck the decisive goal with a searing 67th-minute finish to inflict defeat upon the side that was just a penalty kick away from being crowned world champions three months ago.

France's first-half dominance had evaporated in the second half in the face of Scotland's vigour. Henry had one chance to restore parity but a weak 87th-minute header was saved by Craig Gordon to signal a massive party from the Scotland fans as France were mugged, just as they were on their last visit here 17 years ago.

Caldwell was euphoric. "It is an unbelievable result," he said. "One of the best ever for Scotland." His coach was effusive about the resolute rearguard effort. "We knew France would have a lot of possession in the first half but we handled them very well," said Walter Smith.

The anticipation which had gripped Scotland for the last month over this game had been remarkable. What was initially an occasion to gawp at the talents of Henry took on a different complexion when the Scots matched the French in winning their opening two games to top Group B ahead of Raymond Domenech's side.

France had not lost a qualifying game of any sort since 1992, though the older vintage of Les Bleus do not recall Glasgow with fondness. A side coached by the legendary Michel Platini succumbed to a storming Scotland performance in 1989 that sent Andy Roxburgh's team to the World Cup finals in Italy.

The one element which had aged well was the atmosphere. The Scotland fans gave raucous backing to Smith's players and James McFadden almost rewarded them after just four minutes when he audaciously burst between Willy Sagnol and Lilian Thuram before robbing the latter on the byline. Scotland's lone striker drifted inside but his netbound shot struck Paul Hartley.

That was a false dawn. France dominated the next 30 minutes as their crisp passing had Scotland chasing white shadows. Henry's surge towards the box in the 12th minute drew a foul from Caldwell, allowing the Arsenal striker to conjure up a free-kick that arced beyond Craig Gordon's leap but crashed back off the post. Gordon had the measure of another Henry free-kick and then Patrick Vieira and David Trezeguet both had the ball in the net within four minutes of each other, with a header and overhead kick, but they were rightly ruled offside.

Such was Scotland's submissiveness that they did not summon up another effort on target until nine minutes before half-time. The Scots seemed happy to trace the same pattern of resistance in the second half apart from one moment when McFadden had the crowd on its feet early on as he chased a clever pass over the top of the French defence. Sadly, with just Grégory Coupet to beat, McFadden slashed his shot wide.

However, around the hour mark, Scotland's hunger to get forward sparked a collective sense of belief that they could snatch control. Hartley's 65th-minute corner was met by David Weir, the ball broke back to the midfielder and his shot was deflected wide by Eric Abidal.

That allowed Hartley to fashion the moment that saw Hampden explode. The Hearts player this time delivered his corner to the back of the box. It was met by the left boot of Caldwell, who outmuscled Vieira to thump a fierce shot past Coupet from eight yards.

The famous stadium was in a state of delirium. Gary Teale almost scored only for Coupet to deny his shot. After that, Hampden willed its side towards the finishing line, with Abidal making one great intervention to deny Hartley's run.