There was a little piece of home awaiting Frank Hadden and his Scotland squad as they arrived at the Hotel de Ville here yesterday for their formal 'welcome' press conference in this old mining town.
Right next door to the town hall stands a watering hole named in memory of the city where Saint-Etienne's beloved football team played in the 1976 European Cup final. Thankfully for Hadden, his players resisted the temptation to sample the delights of 'Le Glasgow' three days ahead of their World Cup opener against Portugal in the Stade Geoffroy Guichard.
"I actually wore a green scarf at Hampden Park when Saint-Etienne lost to Bayern Munich," coach Hadden disclosed, currying instant favour with the locals no doubt.
"I think I supported them because they were the underdogs – the same reason most of the locals here will probably be supporting Portugal on Sunday." The Portuguese are not so much underdogs as underwolves – 'Los Lobos', as they are known. Sunday's Pool C encounter marks their World Cup debut and they set out in the tournament as 1,000-1 joint-outsiders.
Still, Hadden maintained: "We expect that Sunday will be a very tough encounter for us. Portugal have made significant progress – I was interested to see that L'Equipe awarded the outside centre berth in their world XV to a Portuguese player."
Indeed, the French daily sports paper has chosen Miguel Portlea as a centre partner to Yannick Jauzion in its global XV ahead of the tournament. The 33-year-old works as a lawyer in Lisbon.
Just one member of the 30-strong Portuguese party happens to be a professional rugby player. Goncalo Uva plays as a lock with Montpellier.Reuse content