Captain Scott Brown has called on Scotland to draw on the spirit of Paris 2007 as they attempt to keep their fading Euro 2016 dream alive against Germany at Hampden tonight.
The last time the Scots were in with a realistic shout of reaching a major tournament at the business end, they won at the Parc des Princes – almost eight years ago to the day – courtesy of James McFadden’s famous wonder goal.
France had contested a World Cup final just a year previously and, although that win ultimately meant nothing as the Scots fell agonisingly short in their quest to make it to Euro 2008, it stands as the last time they beat a world superpower at a time when it mattered.
Following Friday’s damaging defeat in Georgia, which has left them fourth in Group D and three points outside the two automatic qualification places, the Scots are in desperate need of a big result to reignite their prospects of making it to France next summer.
Brown, who played in that backs-to-the-wall victory in Paris, said: “Sometimes the underdogs produce a result here and there. Hopefully we can do that. That night in France was all about team-work. We didn’t play that well on the night, but we knew we had to defend as a team.
“We knew we weren’t going to get a lot of the ball, we understood that. We defended 4-5-1 and everyone stayed in their shape, and we doubled-up when we could. We closed people down, and when we did get the ball, we were brave with it.
“Every player was at their best and everyone knows what Faddy did – he put one in the top corner from 35 yards. Sometimes you need that little bit of luck or brilliance from an individual, and hopefully against Germany we get that.
“Nobody believed in us at all and sometimes that’s what you need – you go out and you prove everyone wrong. You need a lot of luck, to be perfectly honest. You are playing against great players but they are also playing against good players as well.”
The Scots also beat France at Hampden earlier in that Euro 2008 campaign, while other notable Hampden results against Europe’s heavweights in the last 15 years include a 1-0 Euro 2004 play-off win over Holland and 1-1 draws with Italy and the Germans in 2005 and 2003 respectively. Brown believes his side have enough match-winners in their ranks to ensure another memorable occasion in the south of Glasgow.
“We have a lot of players there who can do that,” he said. “We’ve got Ikechi Anya, we’ve got Jamesy Forrest. They’ve got a bit of pace and bring a lot to us. We’ve got Steven Fletcher up front, who can do that. We have players who played back then (in France) and are still playing now so hopefully that little bit of encouragement will help us.”
Brown also takes heart from the performance of his team-mates against the Germans in Dortmund in the opening game of the qualification campaign a year ago. The captain was back home in Scotland nursing a hamstring problem as Gordon Strachan’s men roared back to equalise through Anya before succumbing 2-1 following a gallant performance.
“Playing the world champions whets the appetite,” said the Celtic midfielder. “We did well over there – I was watching it in the house. Every time you go on the park you have to be brave on the ball. When they were over in Germany, they were extremely brave on the ball, created chances and we scored. We looked like we could have scored another couple as well but it wasn’t to be. Hopefully this time it will be. We know what we need to do and it is going to be a great occasion.”
Of course, Scotland’s most recent form doesn’t bode so well, with the team having been widely criticised for an insipid display in Tbilisi on Friday. Brown was among those to have his performance level questioned, but the captain was in defiant mood. “I felt my performance was okay,” he said. “Everyone individually in the team wasn’t great, or we would have created more chances. I think we all know we can do a lot better. We need to do better as a team, not just individually. This is all about us as a team, and not just about individuals. Yes, you can get some individual brilliance, but we are based on how hard we work as a team. Togetherness is what we need to get through to the Euros.
“You know that you are not always going to play really well – it’s about how hard you work for the team. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down – you can’t play hard every game. It’s about working hard together as a team, and trying not to let your team-mates down. We did work hard on Friday, but it didn’t come off for us. Sometimes you need that little bit of luck, like when Naisy [Steven Naismith] maybe puts the ball in the net, when it’s hit off his knee and hit the bar. Other days, their shot doesn’t go in, or somebody blocks it, or something else happens. It is those little bits of luck that didn’t really come off for us.”
As well as the disappointment of Friday’s result, the team have also had to contend with a late return home from Georgia. The flight back from Tbilisi was delayed three hours, meaning the players didn’t arrive at Glasgow Airport until 7am on Saturday. Brown played down any talk of potential disruption to pre-match preparations.
“We’ve had loads of time to chill out at the hotel in the last couple of days,” said the skipper. “That’s been no bother whatsoever. It [the delay] doesn’t actually bother me – you are either sitting in an airport or sitting on a plane. It didn’t bother any of the lads too much, to be perfectly honest. These things happen, you get delays, I’m sure other people have had delays, and they know what it is like. We came back, we slept well, we’ve eaten well, and we’ve trained well. So for us it’s not an excuse. You just get a few hours’ sleep [on Saturday morning], you go back, and get eating at the same time, and get back to the same script that we were going to do anyway. It was no bother for us.
“We’ve got our frustration [from the defeat] out in the last couple of days in training, and we’ve been watching bits and bobs of video. We’ve got to try and get our minds set on the fact that we are playing the world champions here at Hampden, and that anything can happen. We’ve done it here before and we know we can do it again.”