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Classy French give Scots a lesson without breaking out of first gear.
SCOTLAND lost their second successive match at Hampden last night as France kept them at arm's length arm's with almost contemptuous ease.
The world champions played within themselves during an opening 45 minutes in which Scotland played with pride and no little skill.
But after the break, the French side - containing eight World Cup winners - changed gear, scored within seven minutes, scorned another couple of chances and decided it would be rude to inflict any more damage on their hosts until two minutes from time when Thierry Henry added a classy second.
The goal from substitute Sylvian Wiltord in the 53rd minute took advantage of some sloppy Scots defending but also of a tactical blunder by Craig Brown. He had sent Stephen Pressley on at half-time but played him on the completely unfamiliar left side of the back three and while the Hearts man was getting his bearings, France scored from his position.
By the time Pressley was switched to his preferred right- hand side, the damage had been done and the tone had been set.
Brown knew beforehand that his depleted side faced a monumental task against the best team on the planet.
They didn't let him down but in the end, craft should always beat graft. And it did.
The World Cup was paraded before the start and it was probably the closest we'll ever get to it.
They also gave us a glimpse of the past as a host of stars of the calibre of Kenny Dalglish , Graeme Souness , Joe Jordan , Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan
That, too, was bitter-sweet because it only served as a reminder that Scotland at the moment do not possess the kind of talent those players had.
What Brown does have, though, is a team of honest triers - some with more ability than they are sometimes credited.
Even without a clutch of first choices, the Scotland coach would have known lack of effort would not be a failing.
It was, though, an awesome task for the home side. Even a glance at the visiting dug-out would validate that claim.
Patrick Vieira, David Trezegeut, Robert Pires and Frank Leboeuf . With the French national team, Leboeuf won the 1998 FIFA World Cup. were among those who could not get into a French team who conquered the world just two years ago.
They won at Wembley in the not too distant past as well but, hey, doesn't everyone?
Certainly, Scotland's triumph there in November seemed to have put a swagger back in our players' steps and in the opening spell of the match they gave a near full house plenty to be happy about.
In fact, Scotland had the ball in the French net after just two minutes before a linesman's flag hauled the crowd back to reality.
A long throw-in from Callum Davidson won flicks to allow Kevin Gallacher. to burst in on goal.
The Newcastle striker used an arm to control the ball, however, and the eagle-eyed Norwegian spotted it before the Scot and Laurent Blanc Laurent Blanc (born November 19, 1965 in Alès) is a retired French football defender, who scored the first golden goal in World Cup history. Blanc is considered to be one of the great centre-halves of the 90s. combined to run the ball into the net between them.
Still, it was a sign that if the French thought they could stroll this they were misguided.
In the seventh minute, however, they moved forward menacingly and brought Neil Sullivan Neil Sullivan (born 24 February 1970 in Sutton) is a professional footballer currently playing for Doncaster Rovers again on a permanent basis after moving from Leeds United at the end of the 2006-2007 season. He is a goalkeeper. into play for the first time.
Paul Telfer who looked composed in his first appearance, was short with a headed passback and in a flash Christophe Dugarry had nipped in to smack an angled drive off the Wimbledon keeper's legs.
Scotland, though, were more than holding their own with the back five - or three if you are an optimist - looking alert.
Barry Ferguson and Don Hutchison were passing and probing in front of them with Colin Cameron being given a licence to get beyond Gallacher and Billy Dodds.
The Hearts man did that to perfection in the 11th minute but his normally decent finishing let him down.
Cameron saw Telfer's long ball early and darted between Marcel Desailly and Blanc to head up into the air then follow it's descent before slicing his volley wide.
It would have been a sensational goal but the little midfielder would have been disappointed with the final effort.
Scotland's enterprising start had made this a better contest than many had dared hope but French muscles were beginning to loosen up and gradually Emmanuel Petit and Didier Deschamps exerted their influence.
They were almost helped by Colin Hendry's sloppy pass out of defence in the 21st minute. The skipper gifted possession to little Ludovic Giuly and his pass into the box would have found Henry at the near post had Paul Ritchie and Sullivan not combined to thwart the danger.
Dugarry was next to create an opening for the World Champions, doing well to find space on the left to deliver a cross straight on to Henry's head. The Arsenal attacker's header was powerful enough but straight at Sullivan.
Scotland continued to give as good as they got as the match moved towards the interval. When it came, Brown had good reason to be satisfied.
Both sides made two changes at the start of the second half, Neil McCann replacing Cameron and Steven Pressley coming on for Ritchie to win his first cap.
The French introduced Bordeux double act Wiltord and Yohan Micoud for Youri Djorkaeff and Giuly - and immediately looked livelier for it.
Wiltord shot over within a minute of his arrival then tested Sullivan with a low shot which the keeper did well to tip round the post low to his left.
It was a warning Scotland failed to heed and in the 53rd minute they paid the price.
The home midfield gave Micoud far too much room to run at them and when his pass found Wiltord, Pressley didn't get close enough. The sub striker had time to take a touch then bury a 14-yard shot across Sullivan and into the keeper's bottom right-hand corner.
Scotland's defensive deficiencies apart, however, the goal was a prime example of French passing and movement.
It had begun on their own 18- yard line and a series of passes involving Deschamps, Bixente Lizarazu and Petit had preceded Micoud's involvement.
The crowd, who had never been raucous, were stunned into silence and their mood would not have been lifted by the sight of Vieira coming on to the pitch, replacing Deschamps just before an hour had passed. The French had stepped up a gear and Scotland were struggling to respond.
The changes Brown had made were experimental but they had succeeded in disrupting the rhythm his men had found in the first 45 minutes.
He needed something to lift the spirits on the pitch and in the stands and before much longer Allan Johnston was hauled away from the his stretches and told to get ready.
Before the Ranger-in-waiting could replace Telfer in the 67th minute, Scotland had another escape. Petit fired over a corner which Vieira met powerfully but Davison hooked his header off the line.
Vieira sliced an effort wide as the French went for the second and in the last 20 minutes the replacement of Dugarry with Marseille wonder boy Pires was not going to hinder them.
The Scots had not tested Ulrich Rame in the French goal all night but the Bordeaux keeper - wearing one of Sullivan's shirts because of a colour clash - had a couple of anxious moments around the 75th minute.
He watched a Gallacher shot deflected wide and from the corner, Christian Dailly climbed to head a looping effort just wide.
A minute later, though, Dailly came within inches of doubling France's lead, albeit inadvertently.
The defender got his body in the way of a Blanc piledriver and the shot spun inches wide with Sullivan stranded. With 12 minutes left, Mark Burchill was given his shot - to the biggest cheer of the night - when he replaced Gallacher.
The whole place got a lift and within seconds Johnston's wizardry wiz·ard·ry
Any hopes Scotland may have had of getting on level terms were dashed after 89 minutes when France grabbed No.2.
Vieira surged menacingly into the box and when the ball broke off Hendry straight into the path of Henry the Arsenal star curled the ball into Sullivan's bottom left-hand corner.
SCOTLAND - Sullivan, Ritchie, Dailly, Hendry, Telfer, Ferguson, Hutchison, Cameron, Davidson, Gallacher, Dodds. Subs: Anderson, Gould, Pressley, Naysmith, Johnston, Burchill, McCann.
FRANCE - Rame, Thuram, Desailly, Blanc, Lizarazu, Giuly, Deschamps, Petit, Djorkaeff, Dugarry, Henry. Subs: Vieira, Pires, Wiltord, Leboeuf, Micoud, Letizi, Djetou.
Referee - R Pedersen, Norway.
Taken from the Daily Record