Words by Ross Kilvington
Paris, 10th of June 1998, Scotland v Brazil in Group A of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Surely every Scotland supporter can remember exactly where they were to watch the game? I vaguely remember sprinting home from school full of anticipation, my country against one of the finest national teams to ever grace the game, what a game to open up the world cup. Brazil had been like Scotland’s kryptonite in the World Cup finals, grouped together in '74, '82 and '90 prior to these finals, Scotland had lost every time. Surely the law of averages would work in our favour and a positive outcome could be achieved. 90 minutes later however, anticipation and hope slowly faded to disappointment and hurt, although whilst the team made every Scotland fan extremely proud that day, there is still a question of what if? What if we hadn’t conceded the opening goal in the first 5 minutes? What if Tom Boyd hadn’t conceded that ridiculous own goal. Too many questions and not enough answers, that’s what makes football the beautiful game, unfortunately it just doesn’t go your way sometimes.
The 1998 World Cup was the first one I remember watching. The nostalgia still hits me when I see highlights from certain games or read articles about the tournament. The build-up is what I can vividly recall the most, what 7 year old boy doesn’t want to be watching football every day for a whole month? The added bonus of your home nation qualifying too just added to the hype. Sitting watching the opening game between Scotland and Brazil with my dad made me fall in love with the world cup, the rollercoaster ride of emotions through 90 minutes, I will never forget it. Although the 3 points eluded us, I was confident that we could win against Norway in Bordeaux. Norway had an excellent team who had qualified for the previous world cup and had also been ranked as high as 2nd in the world a couple of years earlier. As I recall watching the match at a close friend’s house who didn’t actually like football if I can remember correctly, I couldn’t believe after the buzz of nearly getting a result against Brazil, a draw against Norway would be considered a disappointment. Goals shared between Havard Flo (Tore Andre Flo’s brother) and Craig Burley, who had dyed his hair blonde for the occasion meant the match finished at 1-1. A first win at a World Cup finals since 1990 would have to wait.
On to Saint Etienne, Morocco would be the opponents, a win would be enough to qualify bearing in mind Brazil defeated Norway (in what would be one of the shocks of the tournament, Norway won 2-1 with a late penalty after being 1 goal down at 80 minutes). Craig Brown fielded a strong starting 11, Gallacher and Durie would be spirited in targeting a defence who had already conceded 5 goals in 2 games so far. I was allowed to stay up and watch the whole match even though I had school the next day, looking back I don’t know why I bothered. The 3 nil drubbing was Scotland’s heaviest defeat in a World Cup finals match since a 4-1 reverse at the hands of Brazil in the 1982 finals in Spain. So much hope at the start of the match, turned to sheer embarrassment by the end, Morocco deserved the win you can’t take it away from them, but again this was another World Cup Finals tournament that Scotland missed out on the knockout stage (the 8th consecutive time – a record).
Who knew that this would be our last match at the finals of a major tournament for 20 years and counting. The reality was we were regular participants at footballs top table, although with a slight Jekyll and Hyde approach, think the majestic result against Holland in 78, to the shambles of Costa Rica in 90.
If I knew then that being a Scotland supporter was going to be this difficult, I think I would have picked another sport. But that’s the thing with football, you can never leave, it just keeps pulling you back in. Never mind though eh, I had Euro 2000 to look forward to!