France complete resounding win despite having man sent off
The game kicked off with both teams aware of the fact that anything but a home win would send Scotland through to the World Cup. There had perhaps been a vague hope, certainly more in France than in Scotland, that Norway would go on and win in Yugoslavia, but that game had kicked off more than two hours earlier, and news of the 1-0 home win would gradually make its way around the French national stadium with kick-off looming. A win for the visitors would’ve taken the Scandinavians up to seven points, with qualification still to play for when they visit Glasgow in the final round of matches. Now, all France could do was win tonight, and then hope for a late miracle in the middle of next month.
Yugoslavia’s passage through to Italia ’90 had already been guaranteed even before that win against Norway, and now it would almost be impossible to deny them group victory. Their remaining game was ‘away’ (on neutral ground) to Cyprus.
The updated table after the earlier kick-off:
France team news
France manager Michel Platini had picked a squad of 16 without two notable absentees: full-back and team captain Manuel Amoros and star striker Jean-Pierre Papin. They were the only two players absent since their previous qualifier, the 1-1 draw in Norway early last month. Neither was, however, likely to have been severely injured. Papin had featured at club level in the previous midweek, when the star-studded Marseille team had lost 2-0 at Lille in the league, and he would also play the full 90 minutes in OM’s subsequent league match, a 1-1 home draw against Cannes, three days after this qualifier. Amoros, also of the big south coast club, had not played in that loss at Lille, but had returned to start the draw with Cannes, where he would come off on the hour.
Drafted into the Bleus squad as replacements for the two absent players were left-footed centre-half Bernard Casoni of Toulon and creative forward Daniel Bravo of Paris Saint-Germain. Casoni, 28, had played the full 90 minutes in both of France’ first two qualifiers, and then been an unused substitute during the 2-0 loss in Scotland, whilst 26 year old Bravo similarly had played in those two first qualification matches, before coming on as a substitute in the 3-2 loss in Yugoslavia late last year.
It was a well balanced squad which was available to Platini and coach Gérard Houllier. The starting eleven would surely not differ much from their last outing.
Scotland team news
Scotland had early named a 20 man strong pool from which the 16 man matchday squad eventually would be picked. Some players were quite injury-ridden now late in 1989, something which first and foremost was noticeable in defenders Willie Miller (Aberdeen) and Gary Gillespie (Liverpool). They were two players quite soon axed for the squad which would travel to France, and in addition Chelsea’s full-back Steve Clarke, who had been an unused substitute in Zagreb last month, his only appearance in a qualification squad during this campaign, needed to leave. The same also turned out to be the case with Dundee United’s young forward Kevin Gallacher, who had just made a solitary qualification appearance to date. He had been an unused substitute on no less than four occasions.
In the squad which travelled to Paris, eleven of the players from Yugoslavia remained. This meant five had been omitted for various reasons since last month: Gillespie, Miller, Clarke, midfielder Peter Grant and forward Gordon Durie. Coming into the squad for the quintet were defenders Richard Gough and Dave McPherson, midfielders Gordon Strachan and Jim Bett, as well as striker Mo Johnston. The latter had scored six times in six qualifiers, and his return was obviously a very welcome one. With Durie out this time, Johnston (whose command of the French language was quite sound after his time at Nantes) looked set to partner Rangers team mate Ally McCoist up top. The latter had started each of Scotland’s four most recent qualifiers.
Scotland had a forward named Eric Black plying his trade in French football with Metz. He was someone often struggling with injuries, but he was having a decent run in the team around this time. His only two previous internationals had come towards the end of 1987. Could he have been an interesting name for Roxburgh ahead of this squad announcement?
They were an experienced squad, the Scottish, though there did not appear to be a whole lot of pace in there. They would probably need to exploit other avenues than counter-attacking to return back from the French capital with that point which would ensure their qualification.
Swiss 38 year old Kurt Röthlisberger had been placed in charge of the game. It was still relatively early in his international refereeing career, but he was an up and coming official, who was making his third appearance of the 1990 qualification. Earlier, he’d overseen the Group 6 meeting between Hungary and Northern Ireland (1-0) and the Group 2 clash between Sweden and Poland (2-1). Röthlisberger had made his international debut almost two year to the day earlier through Spain 5-0 Albania, a qualifier for the 1988 European Championships. This was his sixth task altogether at international level.
As Olympic matches were not considered ‘full’ internationals, his record from the 1988 tournament in Seoul, South Korea, did not read into his ‘totals’ stats. He had refereed twice there: Sweden’s 2-1 group stage win against West Germany as well as Brazil’s 1-0 quarter-final win against Argentina.
This was the two countries’ tenth meeting in history. Scotland had a sound record with six wins and three draws so far. The most recent encounter had obviously been the 2-0 home win for the Scottish back in March.
In telling matches prior to this qualification, they had come head to head during the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, with the French winning 2-1 in the group stage. They would eventually lose out to Brazil in the semi-finals (5-2).
Their most recent clash on French soil had been a 1984 Marseille friendly, when France had won 2-0. Today’s French manager had captained the side, whilst three players who had got game time then, goalkeeper Bats, defender Le Roux and forward Bravo, had featured. For the Scottish, no less than seven of the 13 who had appeared then were present in today’s squad of 16.
Parc des Princes had staged France internationals for 84 years already, and this was the 117th in this category to take place on these shores of the French capital. Not since a 1975 qualifier for the following year’s European Championships had ‘les Bleus’ played a home qualifier outside of their metropolis: They had beaten Iceland 3-0 in Nantes back then. However, despite a friendly win in Sweden and away qualification draw against Norway, the national team was hardly on everyone’s lips for positive reasons alone. They were not expected to draw a huge attendance figure for this game.
|1 Joël Bats (c)||44′||32||Paris Saint-Germain|
|2 Franck Silvestre||22||Sochaux|
|3 Éric Di Meco||53′, 57′||26||Olympique Marseille|
|4 Yvon Le Roux||sub h-t||29||Paris Saint-Germain|
|5 Franck Sauzée||24||Olympique Marseille|
|6 Bernard Pardo||29||Bordeaux|
|7 Didier Deschamps||20||Nantes|
|8 Christian Perez||sub 82′||26||Paris Saint-Germain|
|9 Jean-Philippe Durand||28||Bordeaux|
|10 Jean-Marc Ferreri||26||Bordeaux|
|11 Éric Cantona||23||Montpellier|
|12 Bernard Casoni||on h-t||28||Toulon|
|x Laurent Blanc||23||Montpellier|
|14 Daniel Bravo||on 82′||26||Paris Saint-Germain|
|x Stéphane Paille||24||Sochaux|
|16 Bruno Martini||27||Auxerre|
|1 Jim Leighton||31||Manchester United|
|2 Richard Gough||27||Rangers|
|3 Maurice Malpas||27||Dundee United|
|4 Steve Nicol||27||Liverpool|
|5 Alex McLeish||75′||30||Aberdeen|
|6 Roy Aitken (c)||30||Celtic|
|7 Gordon Strachan||sub 64′||32||Leeds|
|8 Paul McStay||24||Celtic|
|9 Ally McCoist||27||Rangers|
|10 Maurice Johnston||26||Rangers|
|11 Murdo MacLeod||sub 76′||31||Borussia Dortmund|
|12 Andy Goram||25||Hibernian|
|x Dave McPherson||25||Hearts|
|14 Jim Bett||on 76′||29||Aberdeen|
|x Brian McClair||25||Manchester United|
|16 Alan McInally||on 64′||26||Bayern München|
The two teams took to the pitch in a fine atmosphere created by those present, even if the stadium was only about half full. The respective national anthems were played out, and the visitors, playing from left to right as we were looking, would commence by kicking the game off through midfielders Paul McStay and Gordon Strachan.
The pitch looked to be in impeccable condition. There were a couple of interesting inclusions, which we will return to shortly. Let’s see how this most interesting of qualifiers plays out.
Despite Scotland’s set-back in Yugoslavia last month, they’re not in France just to sit back and soak up French pressure. They start the game in a very collected manner, and one in which they’re very determined not to give anything away early on. However, they’re up against an equally committed host side, which displays in some hefty early challenges that they certainly do not wish to relinquish any initiative. There’s early free-kicks against Pardo, Deschamps and Le Roux for fouls, of which the latter, a big tackle from behind on McCoist, is the more aggressive of the lot. The Scotland striker needs a few moments to collect himself in the wake, even requiring physio treatment, before play can resume.
Game pace is fine. However, precision is not great, and both sides fail to construct any early opportunities until the visitors almost strike on nine minutes through McCoist, who opportunistically attempts a half volley from the left edge of the 18 yard area. His looped effort’s just wide of the post, with Bats more than likely beaten. Had it gone in, it would’ve been some goal, but the French could draw a sigh of relief. Five minutes later, there’s an equally opportunistic effort down the other end of the pitch, although Pardo’s hopeful volley 26-27 yards out, well over, could also have come about as he felt the need to deny the visitors a counter-attacking moment. He would’ve been excused had he not had full belief in scoring from there.
With big battles happening all across the pitch, the tone has been set, although you do not expect any malice from either set of players. That Le Roux challenge from behind on McCoist earlier had not been pretty, but it had been the result of poor timing rather than evil intentions. On eleven minutes, there definitely ought to have been a first yellow card of the tie, with MacLeod having put his right leg through Silvestre’s left knee out on the French right hand side. Again, you did not suspect there to have been a sinister plan behind MacLeod’s action, but the outcome had nevertheless been nasty. Silvestre was the second player in need of treatment, though fortunately he too was able to continue after a round with the magic sponge.
Gough an attacking threat
The Scottish forecheck well; France are left with little room in which to mount attacks. They need to be clever to find a way through the determined visitors, though they rarely succeed during the opening 20 minutes. Scotland do look better than they did last time around, in Zagreb, but they’re also not facing an opponent with players of such extreme individual talent. This French midfield does not boast talent akin to that of Dragan Stojković, but they compensate for that with plenty of battling skills and strong running. In that respect, France are no inferior to the visitors; rather the opposite. It is Scotland, however, who arrive at the first effort on target 17 minutes in, when big centre-back Gough rises well deep in the penalty area following Strachan’s raking corner from the right wing. Gough connects cleanly despite the presence of Sauzée, and his firm, downward header forces a vital save from Bats low down. Luckily, the experienced stopper does not concede a rebound, as Johnston was handily placed to tuck any gifts into the back of the net.
There’s very little indication from the opening 25 minutes that the game is about to open up. While the game does not quite resemble a stalemate, because there’s pace and intent about most situations so far, the hosts struggle to wriggle free from the slight upper hand which the Scottish have built. Big Gough’s set-piece presence has been mentioned, and another right wing corner routine from Strachan on 24 minutes finds the towering central defender in an identical spot to last time inside the area. Once again Sauzée’s no match in the air to the defender, who had no less than six goal attempts during the 3-2 win in Cyprus earlier in the qualification, and again Gough makes Bats work from his downward header. It bounced up just in front of the ‘keeper, who conceded a rebound this time around, although not a major one to let either Johnston or McCoist in for a finish. Bats collected the ball safely on the second time of asking to deny the Scotland forward pairing a chance to finish.
Whilst little had suggested that a French goal was just around the corner, it is the hosts who strike first when they capitalize on some sloppy Scottish play inside their own half. Firstly, it is Gough who fails to find left-back Malpas with a simple ball from the centre, and from Cantona’s throw in along the right, the French manage to create an attack which involves several players: Perez, Pardo, Deschamps, Ferreri and ultimately Perez again. This latest involvement from the little PSG forward sees him pick Deschamps out with a deft little pass from the outside of his right boot, and as Strachan has failed to identify his defensive responsibility, he’s totally exposed the central right area inside their box. Deschamps seized on the lack of defensive awareness from the visitors, and he places a low shot to the left of Leighton, just inside the left post and into the back of the net. France, who had incidentally threatened a minute earlier through a Le Roux near post header over from Perez’ right wing corner, give themselves a chance of reaching Italia ’90. Still a long way to go, mind, but they’ll happily accept this Scottish lapse in concentration.
France: A look through the team
France are without two key players in full-back Amoros and striker Papin, so for this fixture, manager Platini has had to tinker somewhat with his tactics. Admittedly, the 4-3-3 had not looked a great fit until the sudden goal, as they had struggled to get going, rarely creating enough movement off the ball to provide team mates with passing options. The French had looked sound in 4-4-2 in their two matches away against Nordic opposition, but the absence of goal poacher Papin had made them return to 4-3-3, the formation which they’d been using in the home game against Yugoslavia back in April.
Joël Bats was facing little direct threat to the goalkeeper’s jersey, and this time around, with Manuel Amoros absent, the 32 year old Paris Saint-Germain ‘keeper was given the captain’s armband. It was his 49th appearance for les Bleus, and though it had been his error which had gifted Norway a late equalizer during that 1-1 game in Oslo in September, the management team clearly had few qualms about selecting him once again.
With no Amoros available, the full-back positions had gone to Sochaux’ reliable and versatile 22 year old Franck Silvestre and Marseille’s long-haired Éric Di Meco. With four and three caps respectively, they were not equipped with an overload of international experience, though Silvestre had displayed promise when he’d come on during the second half in Norway. As for Di Meco, his featuring for a strong OM had made his inclusion at national team level a relatively straight-forward decision for Platini. 26 years of age, he was strong in the challenge, eager to participate in coming forward, and possessed a fine left foot with which he could swing a cross into the centre. His aggression seemed to be a fitting tool against an opponent traditionally renowned for their physical ability.
In the centre, Franck Sauzée and the experienced Yvon Le Roux, who perhaps was best remembered for his sending-off during the final of the 1984 home soil European Championships, where he had to see the final few minutes of the 2-0 win against France from the touchline, were paired for a third successive international. Big Le Roux had lately struggled somewhat with injuries, and had also come off in the second half last month, but his availability appeared to please Platini. Le Roux was perhaps not the most mobile of centre-backs, but he would give his all in any challenge. Sauzée was once again France’ libero pick, and with the Marseille man being such a good reader of the game, he seemed ideal in instigating from the back.
The three man strong midfield consisted of Bordeaux team mates Bernard Pardo and Jean-Philippe Durand, as well as Nantes captain Didier Deschamps, a 20 year old two-way player with such fine levels of tenacity. The way these three were lined up in relation to one another saw Durand accept a role with a right-sided bias, whilst Pardo clearly was the one with the greater defensive responsibility, sitting at the back of their midfield. Whilst full of commitment, Pardo was also not a bad player in possession, as he would often look for team mates further up the pitch. He had the ability to thread a ball through the opposition’s midfield. He compensated well for the other two, although both Durand and Deschamps would also work defensively: Durand assisting Silvestre along the right, whilst Deschamps predominantly operated towards central left areas. There was perhaps not a great deal of flair among them, but against Scotland they would first and foremost need to win the battle. Then they could look to play.
With no Papin available, Éric Cantona had been given the lone task through the centre, although it should be said right away that his role was clearly not identical to what we’d seen from Papin earlier. Familiar with assisting the OM striker through the middle, Cantona would continue in a deep-lying forward position, and though there was no talk yet of a ‘false 9’, this is probably what his position would indicate: With the midfield three more looking to utilise their battling ability rather than construct, Cantona would time and again drop deep to participate in build-up. He certainly had the eye for the spectacular even at this early stage in his career, and the 23 year old Montpellier forward dropped back with success.
Jean-Marc Ferreri, the third Bordeaux starter in this eleven, had switched from his position wide right in midfield in their 4-4-2 to left-sided forward in this 4-3-3. He was winning his 30th cap, and whilst he’d been guilty for failing to tuck a second French goal away just before the break in their last qualifier, he seemed more or less a foregone conclusion in a Platini select. He rarely accelerated at blistering speed, but he kept excellent control of the ball, and also knew when to pick the right moment for a pass. He was also often a set-piece taker, particularly for corner kicks, and was altogether a very useful inclusion. Perhaps less predictable was right-sided forward Christian Perez, the 26 year old of PSG, who featured internationally for the sixth time. Perez had been France’ left-sided midfielder in their most recent 4-4-2 editions, but he seemed to relish linking up with both Silvestre, Durand and sometimes also Cantona towards the right. He would often cut inside, and he had played a vital role in the build-up to the goal. He was quick and nimble, and someone whom the opponents would often struggle to maintain.
How about the visitors?
One of the trademarks of a good side is their ability to bounce back after a goal against. So how about this Scotland side: Do they have it in them? Well, as they had been having the greater share of possession prior to going a goal down, they had far from seemed overawed by the occasion. Their many supporters who had travelled were in fine voice, and the fans’ support had surely helped giving the team a lift from the start. Still, they were now a goal down, and though a second straight loss in the qualification would be disappointing, they would still have another match point available to them in their final qualifier next month. That said, they would not want to surrender in Paris without a fight.
Manager Andy Roxburgh had, naturally, lined his charges up in 4-4-2 again, for a seventh time out of seven in this qualification. Clearly, he had been far from impressed during their 2-0 friendly loss in Italy last December, their solitary game in this period where they’d deviated from four at the back. What seemed to be lacking, though, was pace. Scotland were sluggish at the back, did not boast plenty of pace or power through midfield or down the flanks, and even up top there was not much speed, even if Johnston had it in him to be described as ‘somewhat pacy’.
In goal, Manchester United’s Jim Leighton, 31 years and with 51 previous caps to his name, started for the sixth time in the ongoing qualification. Far from spectacular, the former Aberdeen custodian would typically give a useful interpretation, even if perhaps he had failed to build on his reputation after his move south of the Scotland/England border.
At right-back, Liverpool stalwart Steve Nicol, 27, also started for the sixth time in the qualification, although for the first time as a full-back. He had started wide in midfield on each of his five former inclusions. A big asset at the dominant English club, he ought to be leading by example even at national team level, though Nicol had not really set this qualification alight. He would also not be seen on a lot of marauding runs from his position, and as such, he was clearly less useful than Richard Gough, who had featured several times in this role since the start of the qualification. Gough had on this occasion, though, been thrust into the centre, with no Willie Miller available to partner Alex McLeish. It was the big Rangers defender’s first outing at centre-back in qualification for Italia ’90. He had arrived at those attacking headers following Strachan’s right-wing corners, and so far rarely been challenged defensively. However, his sloppiness in failing to find Malpas with a simple pass saw Scotland concede the throw from which France would ultimately score to move in front.
Whilst Gough looked after central right areas, McLeish, as per norm, was Scotland’s left-sided centre-half. Gough was sitting somewhat deeper, almost in the sweeper-like role in which Miller had previously performed, with McLeish typically giving his all in challenges both along the ground and in the air. So far, McLeish, the 30 year Aberdeen man making his 65th appearance for his country, the highest in this starting eleven, had often come in contact with either Perez or Durand. The relatively deep-lying Cantona had eluded him thus far. To his left, McLeish had the ever-reliable Maurice Malpas. Dundee United’s left-back, 27, was making his 30th Scotland appearance. He was one of three ever-presents for the Scottish in the current qualification, and was a steady customer along the left, where he would use either foot to find a team mate. Malpas was less attacking than in most of Scotland’s previous qualifiers.
In the centre of midfield, Scotland had Celtic pair Roy Aitken, team captain and 30 years of age, and Paul McStay, 24 years and winning his 40th cap, for a seventh successive qualifier. Whilst McStay had often directed their midfield play, and certainly done so more successfully early in the qualification rather than of late, Aitken had at times looked somewhat below par, not always keeping up with the opponents. While McStay had quick feet to accompany his very useful thinking, Aitken no longer managed to keep pace up, and perhaps was it a fair question to ask whether he was still an actual asset to the team. As a leader: certainly. However, in open play? I am not so sure. He would display his usual commitment, but France’s midfield would eventually find a way around him, whilst McStay’s playmaking ability would be less evident as the game went on. Perhaps did he suffer from having generally slow players around him? McStay appeared to thrive when he could look to pin a pass into space for either forward to run onto, or in making a trademark bursting run through the centre.
For the wide positions, Scotland had recalled Gordon Strachan for the right hand side. 32 years old and now playing in the second tier in England with Leeds, the flame haired action man was not without experience, but his feet did not transport him at great pace, and he would rather cut inside than try to take his full-back on to get into a crossing position. He too often sought in field from his wide right role, and whilst this could’ve paved the way for Nicol to attack from the right-back position, it made Scotland a little too narrow and too cramped. Instead, it would be Johnston who would look to utilise wide right areas or the right handed channels. Opposite from Strachan was 31 year old Murdo MacLeod, yet another player far from quick enough to make it past his full-back. The West Germany based wide man was playing for his country for the eleventh time, and whilst he possessed an excellent left foot for delievery, his crosses would always come from deep positions. Those are obviously easier to defend than crosses coming from higher up the pitch.
Usually thriving from attacking wing play was striker Ally McCoist, who had turned 27 since their last outing, and whose one goal return in the ongoing campaign had probably been a bit disappointing, considering his reputation on the domestic scene. A ‘fox in the box’ kind of player, McCoist would have to do a certain level of work with his back to the opposition’s goal, something which seemed to hamper him a little, and he also faced a tough adversary in the shape of big Le Roux. His now Rangers team mate Maurice Johnston, 26, did not look to be quite as sharp as earlier in the qualification, and he would rarely get into goalscoring positions, often featuring slightly wide towards the right. Also, link-up play between the two had far from been prominent in the first 30 minutes of this tie. Still, with six qualification goals already to his name, Johnston was one of the most prolific strikers in the UEFA zone, and could he add to his tally?
France stepped up further after goal
In the minutes following the goal, France had seen confidence return in full flow, and they were now on the front foot, passing the ball around with greater intent, and looking more likely to penetrate using the two wide forwards. In particular Perez looked keen, and his running down the right hand channels was a big threat to the Scottish defensive. Also, the French could now look to play counter-attacks, and they often did well in the transition phases, switching from defence to attack through pace and flair. This could prove very useful the way the game was heading. Not only Perez, but also Ferreri was important in these transitions. A counter on the half hour saw Cantona play a ball towards the right hand side of the Scottish area, where Deschamps arrived to connect first time with a volley that went straight at Leighton. It was sweet, but the shot had not carried enough sting.
Visitors edge back into it
Whilst there had been a few minutes in the wake of the goal where the hosts had been playing with their tails up, Scotland will soon regroup and look to respond. They gradually retake the initiative, with France retracting further back in the pitch, rather looking to exploit the visitors on the counter, and possession wise it is now the boys in the change strip who look to build through midfield. There’s an opportunity all of a sudden when a loose ball breaks kindly for McCoist to the left inside the area, and the striker connects first time with a sharp left-footed drive, but it is hammered into the side-netting. The French defenders look a bit dumbfound, blaming each other in equal measures, a little surprised and probably disappointed to have let the Scottish so close to an equalizing goal with ten minutes left for first half play.
France look less sharp when there’s further opportunities to catch the visitors on the break, though on one occasion they’re likely to have been victim to the linesman’s injustice. Cantona had tried to play Perez down the right hand channel, only for the little forward to be adjudged offside, even if it had looked like Gough had been lingering and played him on. Scotland see the first half out with the majority of possession, and they are looking more menacing than before, as France drop what is probably deeper than they had wanted or planned for.
With less than three minutes to go to half time, Scotland are given a chance to equalize following the rare decision to award a free-kick inside the hosts’ penalty area. Bats, after picking up a header back from Le Roux, had held on to the ball for too long, and Röthlisberger chose to penalize the ‘keeper, presenting the Scottish with a fine opportunity to grab a late first half leveller. However, with McStay poking the ball across for MacLeod to have a pop, the wide left man sends a hugely disappointing shot low and far wide of the upright. The five man defensive wall had done its job. Bats, though, wanted the last word, and told the Swiss referee off for awarding the free-kick in the first place, something which prompted a deserved yellow card in response.
France are rattled just before the break, and Scotland carve out another opportunity, this time in first half injury time, as MacLeod for once manages to arrive at a crossing opportunity level with the 18 yard area. He’d outwitted Durand in order to work himself into that position, and though his cross needed a deflection off Silvestre, he managed to find McCoist totally free in the centre. The striker looked odds on to score with his left foot, but he contrived to guide his first time volley against the crossbar, with Bats well beaten. This was 15 seconds into time added on, and when Johnston fails to beat Di Meco to the follow-up, Le Roux can eventually clear for the referee to signal the half-time whistle. It had been a very eventful few minutes right at the end, and a turn of events which must have given the visitors great belief that they can get something out of this.
After those final few minutes of the first half where Scotland had come close to pulling level, France had made a change during the break, with Bernard Casoni coming into the left-sided centre-back role in place of Yvon Le Roux. Whilst it can not be known at the time, Le Roux will sadly never again feature in a game at professional level. It had not been possible to judge from the live footage what had happened, though he had looked to be grimacing after winning a near post header from a Perez corner just before the goal. Still, he had played on through to half time. Casoni, 28, who had also played in France’ first two qualifiers for Italia ’90, seemed a decent replacement, especially with Silvestre already playing thanks to the absence of Amoros. It had been Silvestre who had been brought on when Le Roux had had to leave the field of play in France’ previous qualifier.
There is no footage of the actual second half kick-off, though it had likely been performed by Perez and Cantona.
Early second half progress
Scotland were looking to build on their fine finish from the opening half, though the French were stamping their authority on proceedings in the early phase of the final period. They are back to stroking the ball between themselves with confidence, whilst the visitors can’t really work out how to get close enough to the French players in order to put a dent in their progress. France press well whenever the Scottish are in possession, and they apply their pressure higher up the pitch than had been seen during the first half. Still, it leads to little noteworthy in front of Leighton, who is only tested once: That’s through Pardo’s drive from 25 yards on 49 minutes. It is an easy test for the steady custodian, who holds on to the ball despite its bounce a couple of yards before him.
After the initial high France pressure, the visitors are back to have a couple of sniffs on target themselves, and they make their first quick transition from defence to attack of their own five minutes into the second half. Malpas carries the ball at pace from inside his own half and then finds Johnston with a diagonal pass, only for the striker to fire low on the bounce with his left foot, an effort which Bats had few problems in going down to his right and hold comfortably. However, the next attempt from the Scottish would be much more threatening, as the French this time made a meal of it following a long ball up from Nicol. Casoni had plenty of time to clear it, though he tried to play in Pardo, who was with his back to goal, and who was charged down by McStay. The midfielder’s aggression set McCoist up in the area, and in turn the striker freed his partner Johnston to the right, and then ran in behind the back of Sauzée, who tried to administer an offside trap. However, neither Casoni nor Silvestre paid attention, and McCoist was onside as he arrived inside the six yard area, only to flick a near post header wide of Bats’ far upright. A more clean touch, and the scores would’ve been level. It was McCoist’s second close range miss of the evening.
Éric Di Meco: booking…
France had been let off the hook again; McCoist could so easily have scored. The Scottish fans are buoyed by their team’s efforts, and they are quick to applaud the referee’s decision to book France left-back Di Meco for a poor challenge from behind on Strachan around the halfway line on 53 minutes. Röthlisberger had failed to caution MacLeod for an ugly, if perhaps accidental, display of studs into Silvestre’s knee during the first half, but he’s quick to promote the yellow card for the tenacious full-back on this occasion. Maybe did he deem it an intentional act? Strachan’s alright; he’s back up again immediately.
Four minutes after his hacking down of Strachan, Di Meco’s at it again, and this time he commits a similar, full-blooded tackle a few yards inside the Scottish half. His victim on this occasion is Johnston, who only realizes what’s coming in the fraction of a second just before Di Meco clatters into him. The Scotland striker manages to lift his right foot, but his left foot’s still rooted to the ground when he’s caught by Di Meco’s lunge. It is not a particularly pretty tackle, and the red card is duly deserved. It was perhaps not quite a red card offence, but a second yellow was surely merited. France are reduced to ten men, and they’ve gifted the visitors a fine opportunity to come back into the game. Johnston, like Strachan before him, was able to carry on. Di Meco will now face suspension for France’ final qualifier.
Hosts look to exploit counters
France had once again displayed their counter-attacking credentials prior to Di Meco’s sending-off, when Ferreri had cut in from the left and challenged Gough along the ground. The centre-back felt he had no option but to bring the wide forward down, and the hosts had been awarded a free-kick 25 yards out. It had been an opportunity for Sauzée to have a pop at goal, though he could only strike the kick into the defensive wall.
Having gone a man down, what the French did was to switch Durand from his inside right midfield role and back into defence, although his interpretation of Di Meco’s position would not entirely mirror a left-back role: One felt he was playing somewhat more advanced. Still, Durand needed to contribute plenty defensively, and altogether it is not unjust to dub his new position left-back after all. This left Pardo and Deschamps pretty much to fight it out alone with their Scottish counterparts in central midfield, whilst it would appear that Ferreri switched across to the right from his former left-sided attacking role. At the same time, Perez moved across to the left, with Cantona still operating through the centre. It could perhaps be interpreted just as much a 4-2-3 as a 4-4-1. There was plenty of counter-attacking ability left in the French.
Visitors remain 4-4-2
Scotland would continue much in the same vein as before, but perhaps was Malpas given greater attacking freedom from his full-back position? McCoist and Johnston were occasionally switching sides up front, and both were taking some battering by the opposition’s players. Another example was when Casoni was way too aggressive against McCoist on 59 minutes, although it just led to another free-kick.
Just after the hour mark, Scotland supremo Roxburgh has told big Bayern Munich striker Alan McInally to get himself ready to come on. It did not seem out of place to think that the 26 year old could use his aerial strength to perhaps open up more space for team mates around him. So would it be McCoist or Johnston to leave, or would Roxburgh even take off a more defensive player to go with three up front?
Before there was time to execute the substitution, France had increased their lead. They had once again caught the Scottish on the break, although visiting left-back Malpas must accept responsibility for failing to comply with the rest of the defence in playing the opposition offside. To the left-sided player’s defence, it could be said that Scotland were totally exposed in the centre, and so when Ferreri could flick on a poor clearance from Gough after a Perez pass ahead to send Cantona through, the French forward could gleefully accept the invitation to race towards goal and finish to the left of Leighton and into the back of the net for 2-0. Joy for the ten men, whilst it spelt disaster for the visitors, who had shot themselves in the foot.
Scotland do eventually introduce McInally, though they had wanted to do it being just a goal down. Now they’ve got to score at least twice to salvage a point, and paving way for the striker was Strachan. The wide right midfielder had not always stuck to his position, and the Scottish had not too often made inroads down the right. Even right-back Nicol had been reluctant to trot forward, and in taking off their designated right-sided player, it was like the visitors did not wish to challenge Durand in his new position to the left in the French defence. McInally took up his position as a centre-forward, and Johnston and McCoist would be feeding off him. The idea was furthermore that MacLeod would work as a third midfielder alongside Aitken and McStay, although he would still not totally forget about his original left-sided position.
While the visitors’ ideas are obvious, they do not quite manage to execute them: Theory and practice do not always match, and this is another example. They may be enjoying the majority of possession, but the introduction of a target man has not yielded further attempts at goal, and McInally has even appeared to the right among the front three rather than in the centre. On one occasion he was even out by the flag when Scotland had won a corner-kick. It seemed a waste to have McInally on at all if Scotland would not play to his strengths. In midfield, McStay at times displays his indecision, whilst Aitken is the one motoring forward on a couple of occasions. From the back, Nicol appears to be the one responsible for hoisting the ball forward.
A second away substitution
Roxburgh can see that a goal back doesn’t look imminent, and so, right in the wake of a yellow card for McLeish following a juicy tackle from behind on Cantona, he introduces his second substitute of the evening on 76 minutes when Aberdeen midfield man Jim Bett replaces an ineffective MacLeod. So that’s both the original Scottish wide men off. Bett’s only qualification appearance hitherto had come wide to the left in midfield in the 1-1 home draw with Yugoslavia early doors, and he had left a very poor impression. Now, the stockily built 29 year old would slot into the central position of their three man midfield, with McStay to his right and Aitken to his left. At club level, Bett was known for his playmaking ability, and now was the time for him to show this also for the national team.
The French are unaffected by these latest Scottish changes, and they continue to play with assuredness throughout their team, despite the fact that they remain a man short. Their defence is unmoved by the entrance of McInally, with Sauzée and Casoni well in control. Durand is mobile along the left, and is not afraid to venture inside the opposition’s half of the pitch. Pardo and Deschamps continue to display their midfield aggression, rarely giving the Scottish players a second’s peace. And the front three keep pinning the visiting defence on their toes, as there’s still plenty of yards left in all three’s legs. The fact that Ferreri and Perez have switched sides does not appear to have diminished the hosts’ threat levels. And the clever positioning of Cantona seems to complement the two wide forwards well.
Scotland may have used their total substitution quota, though the French have not, and with 12-13 minutes left for play, both Stéphane Paille and Laurent Blanc are seen warming up. So if there’s a final change coming up, who will be giving way? One of the three up top could well be replaced in order to bring fresh feet into the fray, or Platini could opt to bolster their midfield further by adding the solid Blanc for a forward.
As it turns out, neither Paille nor Blanc will be brought on. Instead, the French decide to let forward Daniel Bravo, another PSG man, replace his exhausted Paris team mate with only eight minutes left for play. Perez had rolled his socks down, revealing his shin pads in the moments before coming off, perhaps sporting a hint of cramp. Platini had made precisely the same substitution during his first qualifier in charge, the 3-2 loss in Belgrade in November the previous year, and this was in fact Bravo’s first inclusion since then. They’d look to him for some final minutes running in order to keep the Scottish defence vigilant.
Final nail in the coffin
There is to be no final Scottish onslaught; it never comes off. Instead, some of their players are visibly upset, and surely no one more so than captain Aitken. The Celtic ace hardly displays leadership of the greatest calibre when he repeatedly shows his disgust, probably just as much with his own performance and the current scoreline as with the referee failing to award him free-kicks he felt he had deserved. However, a bad night is about to take a turn for the worse, and it is yet another French counter which precedes the final goal of the evening: Ferreri is the architect as he sets substitute Bravo, who has made a fine cross-run, up for a right wing cross, which is headed out by Nicol for a right wing corner. Gough can only get a faint header away from Ferreri’s flag kick, prolonguing the ball’s trajectory into the path of Durand, who collects on the edge of the area. He subsequently sidesteps Gough with a Cruijff turn, before he shoots low, left-footed via Nicol and into the back of the net for 3-0. It is game over, and the hosts can rejoice.
With exactly a minute of time added on played, Swiss referee Röthlisberger blows his whistle for the final time, after Scotland had threatened through Johnston and McCoist, forcing a corner after the latter had had an effort blocked by Silvestre. It had ultimately been a comprehensive win for the French, who had completed their four home qualifiers without conceding. This result left them with a chance still to qualify for the World Cup, even if they would need Scotland to lose their final fixture of the campaign at home to Norway, coupled with a win of their own at home to Cyprus.
Scotland begin the game well, but they fail to produce opportunities before they suddenly fall behind on 26 minutes following some disappointing defending to allow Deschamps to strike home. An inspired French team will look to sit back and allow the visitors to have the majority of possession, and rather hit the somewhat sluggish Scots on the break. It is not at all a bad recipe, even if they are fortunate to preserve their lead through to half time with McCoist hitting the bar in first half injury time.
It had surely not been a part of the plan to have left-back Di Meco sent off early in the second half, after McCoist had given the hosts another scare with a header, though Scotland fail to take advantage of being a man to the good, and again they’re exposed defensively as Cantona is played onside by Malpas to finish one on one with Leighton. Even a switch to 4-3-3 fails to ignite the visitors, and France wrap up their win with a somewhat fortuitous, deflected goal from midfielder turned full-back Durand a minute from full time.
1 Bats 6.9
a hairy moment when coming for a late corner, but that apart he was rarely in trouble
2 Silvestre 7.3
tucked in when he had to, and was a fine outlet along the right, and a willing customer coming forward. Plenty of composure
3 Di Meco 7.2
one of the prime examples of French aggression, something which eventually leads to his sending off. Defends his side well, and is also contributive in coming forward
4 Le Roux 7.2
wins several headers and shows plenty of aggression along the deck. A sound half, and most likely replaced due to injury
(12 Casoni 7.0
not quite as physical as his predecessor, but still battled well against strong opponents. Didn’t participate so much in build-up on this occasion)
5 Sauzée 7.1
would mainly focus on defensive duties, and kept the French defence together impeccably
6 Pardo 7.3
very committed performance at the back of the French midfield, where he tackled and gave chase throughout. Had a couple of fine moments in possession, too, displaying some passing ability
7 Deschamps 7.3
efficient two-way midfield performance, although less aggressive than his two midfield compatriots on this occasion. Hugely important through his opening of the scoring, and also struck target with a fine volley
8 Perez 7.2
ran himself into the ground, and thrived on the counter. Delightful assist for opening goal, and eventually came off with cramp
(14 Bravo –
brought on late for the attacking left hand side, and provoked the corner from which the French would score their third goal)
9 Durand 7.4
easily justified his inclusion with a very battling performance full of running, and he capped it off with a somewhat lucky goal late on. Switched from midfield to left-back after Di Meco’s sending off
10 Ferreri 7.7
directed many a counter-attack, and was a key performer in how France repeatedly broke down the Scottish via rapid transitions. Displayed his usual strong close control, and assisted for the second goal
11 Cantona 7.3
time and again showed his level of intelligence, and got that elusive second goal with a controlled finish one on one with Leighton. At times drifted out of the game, though compensated by coming deep in order to participate in play
1 Leighton 6.5
beaten on his near post for the first goal, and generally seemed to struggle for reach
2 Gough 6.5
looked surprisingly insecure in the centre, though not entirely his fault as he was part of a defence which struggled to cope with the opposition’s counter-attacking tactics. Twice forced Bats into action through first half headers
3 Malpas 6.4
found Ferreri a difficult opponent, and would not look as confident as the Scottish would’ve wanted. Given more attacking freedom once Scotland were 11 v 10, but rarely got into crossing positions
4 Nicol 6.5
more had been expected, as he featured little in coming forward, although defensively he was mainly sound
5 McLeish 6.5
strong in challenge, but at times out of position, and not always working efficiently in tandem with Gough. Rightfully booked for tackle from behind on Cantona
6 Aitken 6.3
battled, but with Scotland outfought in the centre of the park, he at times arrived too late to get a challenge in. Grew increasingly frustrated, and could well have got himself booked in the latter stages
7 Strachan 6.2
fails to provide width as he’s prone to come inside. No threat to Di Meco, and is replaced by a third striker just as hosts score their second
strangely played for most of the time in a right-sided forward role, and did not influence proceedings after coming on)
8 McStay 6.5
the Scottish looked to him for orchestrating from the centre, but France did well to close him down, and he struggled to make an impact. Off-the-ball runs through the centre were also absent
9 McCoist 7.0
despite being subjected to some big challenges from the French defenders, he was the main Scottish goal threat, with first half injury time volley against the crossbar his greatest opportunity
10 Johnston 6.7
found himself in wide positions too often, and could rarely make a direct goal threat, a second half shot which drew a save from the ‘keeper apart
11 MacLeod 6.2
too stationary to prove a wide threat, one moment in first half injury time apart, as he sat McCoist up for his close range miss. Brought off for a more natural central midfielder as Scotland had gone 4-3-3
(14 Bett –
he did add some creativity through his ability to hold on to the ball, but it was too little, too late)