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Monday, 10 October 2011

Scotland: Can Levein’s men shock the world champions Spain?

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Scotland’s narrow win over Liechtenstein, combined with Spain’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic, has given Craig Levein’s men a glimmer of hope of qualifying for their first major tournament since France 98. All they need to do is better what the Czechs do against Lithunia. Unfortunately their opponents are the current European and World champions Spain. Oh, and they’re playing in Spain too.

It is a really tall order, but Scotland always raise their game for the big occasions. If this was against Costa Rica, Peru or Morocco, everyone would be worried, but Spain . . . bring it on!

Scotland showed their fighting spirit against the world champions last October at Hampden when they fought back from two down to level the game, only for Fernando Llorente to break the Scots’ hearts with 13 minutes to play. Nobody gave them a chance before the game but they almost left with a point.

You have to go back to November 1984 for the last time Scotland beat Spain. That was 3-1 at Hampden and you have to go back a further nine years for the last time they won in Spain, 1-0 in 1975. However, Scotland are always at their best when their backs are against the wall. They have beaten France home and away in recent seasons and defeated the Dutch. On their day Scotland can beat anyone, but on Tueday they are facing the best team in the world bar none.

So to give the famous Tartan Army some hope for tonight, here are five of the biggest upsets ever in football.

Cameroon 1 Argentina 0

Diego Maradona’s men entered Italia 90 as champions and were nailed on favourites to make a winning start of their World Cup defence. Unfortunately Cameroon had not read the script. With the scores level at half-time Cameroon were reduced to 10 men 16 minutes in. They then stunned the champions in the 67th minute by going in front. A harmless ball was thrown into the box and was met by Omam Biyik. It wasn’t the strongest header in the world but Pumpido couldn’t keep it out and the ball squirmed into the back of the net. The Africans ended the game with nine men after Benjamin Massing committed the worst tackle in World Cup history on Claudio Caniggia. It was so bad the referee showed him a yellow card having already brandishing the red!

Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2

It was the final game of the season in 1989 and Liverpool knew if they did anything other than lose by two clear goals they would be crowned league champions. The ball was firmly in Arsenal’s court. They had to win at Anfield. A week early Liverpool had won the FA Cup and they started this game as clear favourites – they hadn’t lost at home by two clear goals or more for three years.

The game was goalless at half-time but Alan Smith but the visitors ahead just seven minutes into the second half. Liverpool had chances to level but passed them up. With the result still hanging in the balance in injury time Arsenal made one final push goalwards. A long ball by Lee Dixon was flicked on by Alan Smith into the path of the rampaging Michael Thomas. The ball bounced kindly for the midfielder who slipped the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar. Arsenal won the league.  

Liverpool 0 Wimbledon 1

The pundits thought the Crazy Gang were going to be thrown to the lions when they met the all-conquering Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final. How wrong were they? While Liverpool were winning league titles and European trophies at will, Wimbledon were playing conference football before finally reaching the top tier in English football. Bobby Gould’s men, which included Dennis Wise, Justin Fashanu, Lawrie Sanchez and Vinnie Jones, more than held their own against the European giants. They took a shock lead just before half-time thanks to Lawrie Sanchez’s looping header and Dons keeper Dave Beasant even saved a penalty from John Aldridge. The Dons held on to record the most famous of victories.

Celtic 1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 3

It was the result that gave us the greatest headline in the world: Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious. John Barnes had endured a hellish spell at Parkhead but this was the final nail in his coffin.

Caley were First Division part-timers when they travelled to Glasgow for the Scottish Cup third round tie. Steve Paterson’s men took the lead after just 16 minutes through Barry Wilson. Celtic striker Mark Burchill restored parity before Lubomir Moravcik headed past his own keeper to give the Highlanders a 2-1 lead. Paul Sheerin then silenced Celtic Park by putting the visitors 3-1 in front via a penalty 10 minutes into the second half. Celtic just couldn’t break down the impressive Caley and two days later Barnes was axed.

  England 2 Scotland 3

It may not be the biggest upset in the world but it will certainly make you smile and give you hope for the game in Spain. Sir Alf Ramsey’s men had won the World Cup nine months earlier and were looking to extend their unbeaten run to 19. With the likes of Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Geof Hurst in the side, England started the game as clear favourites, but Billy Bremner, Dennis Law and Jim Baxter were having none of it.

Dennis Law opened the scoring for the Scots, bundling the ball in from close range. The Tartan Army were in raptures when Bobby Lennox blasted the ball past Gordon Banks from just inside the area. Jack Charlton pulled one back for the home side. With time running down Dennis Law almost secured the win with a cheeky lob, but Gordon Banks clawed it away from goal. However, it wasn’t long before the Wembley Wizards did score their third thanks to a lovely passing move down the left, capped off with a goal by Jimmy McCalliog on his Scotland international debut. England did pull one back at the death through Geoff Hurst, but Scotland held on to record an amazing victory.


You see Scotland have done it before against the world champions in their own back yard, but can they beat the Spanish? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Colin Illingworth



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