Football’s coming home
After the Monaco fiasco, Estonia joined Iran and Costa Rica on the list of Scotland's footballing embarrassments. But with World Cup qualifiers coming up on home turf in the next few weeks, the national side have a chance to redeem themselves.
V‘JOTC'SZ Julian Taylor
As Scotland advance (hopefully) towards the World Cup in France next year. they'll do well to put their recent troubles behind them. Once more. there was the proverbial national disaster when the team 'let everyone doth when it most mattered. An inconceivable 0-0 draw against Estonia in the pleasure palace of Monaco invoked predictable reaction from a roll- call of critics and armchair fans alike. But Estonia was allegedly a one-off night. with tactics going astray. producing a shambles all too familiar in the folklore of international football.
Amid the disapproval. images of Argentina '78. Peru. Iran and Costa Rica were again thrown into the melting pot. as the tabloids tend to do on such crisis- ridden occasions. However. putting the situation into its proper perspective. Scotland remain on top of (irottp 4. although twin matches against listonia and Austria now take on greater importance. These could be potentially worrying times for national coach (‘raig Brown. but former Scotland internationalist and Partick Thistle boss Murdo .\Iacl.eod feels optimistic.
‘lt‘s a great chance for the team to bounce back after listonia.’ he says. ‘Their pride was really hurt from all the media criticism. but playing both the games at home will be a boost for them. The players were disappointed tnost of all. and the Iistonia result will kickstart them to do well.‘
Brown’s men do have a positive look about them — despite the recent showing — and MacLeod agrees: ‘The regular line-up is particularly good at going forward with a good balance in the side. Tom Boyd and Tosh \chinlay operate well as modern wing backs. and Gary McAllister and Paul McStay also like to get forward.’
The stumbling block prevails with the inability to score goals. especially as the Scots are now without the luxury of a top class striking partnership in the shape of Ally .‘ylcCoist and Mo Johnston. Therefore. expectations rest on the broad shoulders of Duncan Ferguson. who has yet to open his account in dark blue. The extra responsibility will not sway the
Estonia was allegedly a one-off night, with tactics going astray, producing a shambles all too familiar in the folklore of international football.
Breaking the duck: Duncan Ferguson is still looking for that first inter- national goal
Everton forward. ‘Duncan isn‘t the type of player to be affected by the attention.‘ reckons MacLeod.
‘He‘ll get on with his game. and it‘s only a matter of
time before he gets off the mark.‘
Looking at the overall picture. MacLeod believes Scotland are capable of getting the required victories which would ease the collective weight of Tartan Army anticipation: ‘Scotland can beat Austria. if they apply themselves. The Austrians were one of the better sides in Europe a few years ago and now they’re coming on stronger. but a win would set us right up again.‘
This is. of course. assuming the Estonians are defeated at Rugby Park. Scotland are doing adequately enough in relative terms. but with a view to the future and giving new faces an opportunity. is there scope for our young talent‘.’
‘There are some English-based players involved in the L'nder-Zl set up who look promising.‘ says MacLeod. ‘but I think the most likely prospect for the future would be Stewart Kerr. who's done well for Celtic. and will probably take over as goalkeeper once Andy Goram and Jim Leighton have hung up their gloves.‘
Scottish success is imperative in the coming weeks. otherwise it‘s going to be a long hot summer.
Scotland play Estonia at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, on Sat 29 Mar, and Austria at Celtic Park on Wed 2 Apr.
listings Events are listed alphabetically by sport, then by da . Fixtures are correct at time o publication, but may be affected by weather. Sports
listtn s compiled by Brian Dona dson.
Scottish Masters Sat 22 & Sun 23. Cockburn Centre. Glasgow. Details on all the weekend‘s action from the organiser on ()l4l 632 4734.
Scottish Team Championship Semi- Finals Sun 23. For the full information on this indoor event call 01294 468372.
Grandtully International Slalom Sat 2‘) & Sun 3(). River Tay at Grandtully. For information call ()1224 741401.
Coupe du Nord - International Sabre Sat 22 & Sun 23. South Queensferry. For details call the organiser on 0141 445 l()()2.
Dundee United v Raith Rovers Tannadice Park. Tannadice Street. Dundee. 3 m.
Dunfermltne Athletic v Celtic East End Park. Halbeath Road. Dunfertnline. 3 m.
Hibs v Aberdeen Easter Road Stadium. Albion Road. Edinburgh. 3pm. Motherwell v Hearts Fir Park. Firpark Street. Motherwell. 3pm.
Rangers v Kilmarnock lbrox Stadium. Edmiston Drive. Glasgow. 3pm.
Clydebank v Dundee Boghead Park. Miller Street. Dutnbarton. 3pm.
Falkirk v East Fife Brockville Park. Hope Street. Falkirk. 3pm.
Partick Thistle v Morton l‘irhill Park. Firhill Road. Glasgow. 3pm.
St Johnstone v Stirling Albion McDiarmid Park. Crieff Road. Perth. 3pm.
St Mirren V Airdrie St Mirren Park. Love Street. Paisley. 3pm.
EUROPEAN UNDER 21 CHAMPIONSHIP
Scotland v Estonia Fot‘thbank Stadium. Sprinkerse Industrial Estate. Stirling. 2pm. An afternoon kick-off will hopefully not put off the locals. as the Scots will need the backing to get thetnselves up for this one. A fiver will get the adults in with £2 the asking price for ‘juveniles'.
WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
Scotland v Estonia Rugby Park. Rugby Road. Kilmarnock. 3pm. After that feckless ()-() performance in Monaco. the Scots will have to find their goal touch if the World Cup dream is to stay alive. At the back. don't be surprised ifJim Leighton reclaims his goalie jersey from a strangely out-of—sorts Andy Goratn. See preview.
EUROPEAN UNDER 21 CHAMPIONSHIP
Scotland V Austria Fir Park. Firpark Street. Motherwell. 7.30pm. The second of the under 2 ls double-header with £5 and £2 being the enticing prices.
Wednesday 2 WORLD CUP QUALIFIER Scotland v Austria Celtic Park.
Contznaed over page
21 Mar—3 Apr 1997 THE LIST77