Scotland's World Cup qualification dream is still alive thanks to a thrilling second half performance at Hampden Park on Saturday in front of a capacity crowd of just over 50,000.
Two goals in the second half from Celtic midfielder Scott Brown and Birmingham City forward James McFadden sets up another must win clash against the innovators of 'Total Football', The Netherlands on Wednesday (9th Sept) at the national stadium.
Three Rangers players helped the national cause on Saturday including captain Davie Weir and striker Kenny Miller who both made Scotland manager George Burley's starting eleven and defender Steven Whittaker, who came on as a substitute after just 13 minutes replacing the injured Calum Davidson.
Weir was recalled into the Scotland side after being over looked on several previous occasions as George Burley was 'looking to the future'. I personally think Weir has suffered from age discrimination, nearing 40 maybe he's not seen as a player who will make World Cup Finals should Scotland qualify for the next qualifying campaign for Euro 2012. However he's proved himself as a top class defender week in week out in the SPL over the last two years and previously in one of the best leagues in the world namely the English premiership.
There's a phrase that often gets branded about in football when new talent begins to rise to the surface 'if you're good enough you're old enough', Weirs certainly good enough, whether he's old or not isn't the question it's his ability. I remember Richard Gough fast approaching the big '4' '0' and keeping Alan Shearer, one of the best strikers in the world at that point in his back pocket during Gough's two year stint at Everton.
David Weir is the only player in the current Scotland squad that's experienced a major finals back in France '98 and his display against Macedonia was excellent. Using his wise old head and making it look simple but that's what players of his ilk do, keep it or certainly make it look simple.
Take note George Burley age 'aint nothing but a number'.
Macedonia were by far the better team in the first half with some neat passing creating three chances but Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon was there on each occasion. Lazio forward Goran Pandev was at the thick of it for the visitors forcing a save from keeper Gordon after eleven minutes and again just before the half time interval but thankfully his effort was again foiled by the Scotland keeper.
The second half is when Scotland really got going no doubt fired up after the argy-bargy with the Macedonians just before the half time interval. The reason for such drama a bounce ball which Scot Brown sent flying off Macedonian defender Igor Mitreski. Chaotic scenes followed before Scotland's resulting corner kick which saw James McFadden pick up a yellow card ruling him out for the match against The Netherlands on Wednesday.
Many would see Browns behaviour as unsportsmanlike as under normal sporting circumstances Macedonia would normally have received the ball by Scotland. Define 'normal' on this occasion? I'm sure in the heat of it all; the verbal exchanges on the park between the players and the desperate need for three points no one is giving it a second thought. I'm certainly not that's for sure.
Mind games at large perhaps?! Sir Alex Ferguson who was in the crowd no doubt had a wry smile on his face and Scot Brown did well keeping the head amongst it all but his boyish smiling certainly hit a mental nerve with the Macedonians and it signalled the start of their downfall.
Kenny Miller went close twice in the match but seemed to lack composure in front of goal, a factor that often creeps into his game but is quickly forgotten or perhaps forgiven as he always puts in a shift for club and country when called upon but at International level you've got to put them away.
Steven Whittaker had a slow start to the game but grew in confidence as the game went on also had two chances in front of goal but he blasted over the bar on 65 minutes and then 5 minutes later his effort was wide of target.
Scotland broke the deadlock through Scot Brown with his first goal for his country when he headed home a Steven Fletcher cross from the far left on the 56th minute which sent the fans wild and manager George Burley equally wild.
Scott Brown celebrates scoring Scotland's first with a header.
Scotland still needed another goal to put the game past Macedonia and ease the nerve of the Scottish support, cue Scotland's talisman James McFadden who won the game for Scotland. Taking the ball from the Scotland half and running towards goal with some dinky skills passing by opposition defenders on route and side stepping the Macedonian keeper Jane Nikolovski to find the back of the net for the fans to erupt once again.
Scot Brown deservedly picked up the Man of the Match award but Scotland need 11 Man of the Match performances on Wednesday night against the third best ranked side in the world. Last time the Dutch visited Hampden Park Scotland won 1-0 thanks to a James McFadden goal only this time Scotland will have to do it without him due to his suspension.
With eleven Scottish Bravehearts taking to the battlefield on Wednesday, I will be one of the 50,000 fans attending Hampden Park providing vocal support for both the team and Ronnie Brown who will be leading 'Flower of Scotland'…C'mon SCOTLAND!
Other Rangers stars in action tonight included Steven Davis and Kyle Lafferty who was on target for Northern Ireland in the 1 – 1 draw away to Poland. The big striker poked his 37th minute shot through the legs of Celtic keeper Artur Boruc keeping Northern Ireland's chances of qualifying well and truly alive.
Article Dated 5th Sept 2009.