Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Best of Enemies ; FLASHBACK

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Best of Enemies ; FLASHBACK

Article excerpt

THE 110 official footballing battles between England and Scotland have provided some of the most enduring images in the world's most popular game.

Some were truly inspiring, such as Paul Gascoigne's famous goal in Euro 96 when he chipped the ball over Scotland defender Colin Hendry and volleyed into the net.

Others were as unpredictable as they were uplifting, such as Scotland's win at Wembley in 1967 when they took on Sir Alf Ramsey's recently-crowned world champions and defeated them 3-2, a victory which saw Scots supporters claiming - tongue in cheek - that they were the real world champions.

Some live in the memory for other reasons, the 1977 encounter at Wembley being a classic example with the Scottish fans ripping up large sections of the pitch and tearing down the goalposts following a 2-1 victory.

Ever since the first official encounter took place in 1872 the fixture has never failed to deliver passion, intrigue and stirring action.

In all likelihood tonight's fixture at Wembley, the first since 1999 when Scotland beat England 1-0 but lost on aggregate in the play-offs for Euro 2000, will be no different.

This, after all, is the fixture which gave football its first international rivalry and as such can claim to have opened the gates to the World Cup, the European Championships and all the other international tournaments which have become an integral part of the footballing calendar.

Yet for all the history and tradition, there remains an unpalatable truth: England and Scotland are no longer at the cutting edge of international football.

Scotland have not qualified for the European Championships since 1996 nor the World Cup since 1998. They have never been past the first round at a finals competition.

True, they have provided the occasional moment of magic such as Archie Gemmell's brilliant solo goal against the Netherlands at the 1978 World Cup, but in the hard currency of meaningful tournament victories they have consistently come up short.

England's record is better, but for a nation with 10 times the population of Scotland and with a Premier League which is the richest and most influential on the planet, it still pales in football terms with the best on offer. …

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