Before Euro 2020, Dad's last big memories of Scotland were France 98. He would have probably cried from this. WE WERE SO FECKIN CLOSE!
Yeah, a painful time for Scotland fans here.
I've probably said it before, but I just cannot grasp how much detail, storytelling and writing you put into every single post.
It's almost incomprehensible. Incredible. Keep it up.
Thank you, I always like to really immerse the reader in the story as it all really adds to the TL.
I'm guessing England will top their Euro 2000 qualifying group over Sweden, who then lose the play-off to Scotland, thus sadly butterflying away the greatest jackpot win in Pointless history!
I'm guessing England will top their Euro 2000 qualifying group over Sweden, who then lose the play-off to Scotland, thus sadly butterflying away the greatest jackpot win in Pointless history!

Even with just coming back from a broken leg the main man Henrik helping out with some goalline magic there. Thanks for that I didn't know about that clip before.
I'm guessing England will top their Euro 2000 qualifying group over Sweden, who then lose the play-off to Scotland, thus sadly butterflying away the greatest jackpot win in Pointless history!
Actually not quite, something of a spoiler here but with England winning Euro 96, they and Germany swap qualifying groups so things could be a little bit back to front here compared to OTL if that makes sense and don't get me started on how different things are for Scotland here.

All to look out for in the coming updates!
Chapter 63: Across The Channel - 1998 World Cup
Chapter 63
Across The Channel


If football's home is in England (or Scotland depending on who you ask), then the home World Cup would undoubtedly be France (though Uruguay might like to dispute this due to certain reasons). The concept of the World Cup many decades ago first came from a Frenchman, Jules Rimet, and France had only hosted the World Cup seventy years ago in which on that occasion, the French had up until this point never made made the final so there wasn't really much to sing about. However it was fitting in some ways that the final World Cup before the millennium would take place in the World Cup's homeland and with it so an expansion of teams from twenty-four to thirty-two in which three of which would come from the UK; England, Scotland and Wales. All of which were hope to win the last World Cup of the twentieth century.

All three had good reason to feel like that they had a decent chance of glory and for good reason thanks to what had happened at Euro '96. England and Scotland had made it to the final with the former winning it and both nations were riding on a tide of goodwill with chance of something similar happening in France did seem like a real possibility and with Craig Brown, the head coach for the Scotland team, pretty much guaranteeing him to stay in for the next few years seemed like he could go for it in France and his English counterpart, Sir Terry Venables, had in the end after saying he would leave the England job following Euro '96 would remain in the job to take the team to France and the hope to add a World Cup title to his name.

Once again, Northern Ireland would sadly miss the trip to France and their southern counterparts sadly would miss out after reaching the play-offs and it was now a wonder as to when the Ulstermen had to wonder just when the day would come when they would grace a tournament sooner than later. Nonetheless for the three Home Nations that had qualified, they would soon find out in the draw in which team they would play and although there would be no battle of Britain clash in of the group stages, there would be some pretty stacked groups for all of them and luck would have it that Scotland would have the honours of opening this World Cup...

Scotland would be placed in Group A along with Norway, Morocco and world champions Brazil, the latter the Scots would have to play in the opening match and there was a great deal of concern about Scotland's chances not just in if they could get out of the group but also regarding as to who would be on the trip to France. While Craig Brown had managed to win the support of the Tartan Army following the English adventure in which before many didn't want him in the job, that wasn't to say that he wasn't off the hook with everyone and this was mostly down to his team selection. It was mostly the same team that had played at Euro '96 but by this point although many of them had experience, many were past their prime and there was a major lack of youth in the side with Scotland's goalkeeper Jim Leighton being that tournament's oldest player at thirty-nine years old, all of which made the Scotland team to have the oldest group of players at the World Cup but would get the nickname of 'Dad's Army'.

To add more to this, the biggest shock was that Ally McCoist, the player who had played a major role for Scotland at Euro '96 would not be selected due to his age and how he was no longer the player that he once was which caused much anger among the supporters and media in which years later, Brown would admit that not taking McCoist was a mistake even if was too old by this point. Then came the opening match with Brazil, the champions expected to not only stamp on the Scots but also go on to defend the World Cup and when Brazil did open the scoring after just five minutes, it seemed that this prediction was about to become a reality. However, Scotland would get their act together and near the end of the first half, they would win a penalty and John Collins would fire in the equaliser to put the Scots level.

In the second half, not only did Scotland look better but actually started to give Brazil a game and could have not only managed to get a point or even a victory had it not been for one unfortunate moment of bad luck in which with just fifteen minutes of play remaining, Tom Boyd would be responsible for an own goal that gave Brazil the victory which some felt was a right sucker punch for the Scots for they did rather well to merit a point but alas it wasn't meant to be. With that, Scotland would have to go back to the drawing board for their second group game with Norway, a game that Scotland had to win to have any chance of going through. The loss of McCoist to the team was keenly felt in that game and everyone knew it.


Boyd scores the winner, for Brazil that is, in the opening match of the World Cup
Following that game, Craig Brown kept faith with the team that played Brazil and didn't do too much to change the team in he next game and this time, things would go better for the Scots. From a corner kick in the fourth minute of the game, Christian Dailly would hammer in the opening goal that gave the Scots an early lead and already that was a major improvement on the last game and there was good hope that Scotland could not only win this game but by many goals. Much like in the game with the Swiss in the their final group match in Euro '96, Scotland would utterly batter the Norwegian backline in the search for another goal yet much to their frustration right until the whistle for half time was blown, they had failed to add to their lead with the score still at 1-0.

When the second half started, things would go all horribly wrong for Scotland in which shortly into the second half would see Norway get a goal back and the Scots could only curse their luck of not adding in goals in what they should have done in the first half. It wasn't a good time in which Norway found confidence but then in the sity-third minute, Scotland were awarded a penalty after Jackson suffered a shirt pull in the box by Ronny Johnsen which brought the Scotland player down and here was surely the moment in which Scotland could retake the lead and win this game. It was no surprise as John Collins stepped up to take it and after scoring a penalty in the game with Brazil, few expected him to miss.

Sadly for the latter that would actually come true as his shot proved to be a rather weak one that went to left and the Norwegian keeper had no trouble in saving it as he guessed correctly. The Norwegian supporters cheered in relief while the Scots now feared that the missed penalty would be the moment that Norway would come back into the game and push forward to find the winner themselves. Thankfully just three minutes later, the Scots would fight back and it would be a moment of magic from the Scots in which David Weir when running on the counter would make a volley shot up towards Craig Burley who got his foot on the ball with ease and thanks to a cheeky chip, and the Norwegian keeper hesitating, Burley helped his country regain the lead and this time, Scotland would get the 2-1 victory that gave them a fighting chance going forward.


Scots celebrating after their victory over Norway
Finally it came time for Scotland to battle with with Morocco in which after that victory over Norway, all Scotland needed at the very least was a point to go through providing that the Brazilians did Scotland a favour by beating the Norwegians. This would be only the second time Scotland would face Morocco with the last being in the 1970 World Cup in which the Scots won 2-1 on that occasion though it was fair to say that Morocco were a different outfit today than they were then. From the opening few minutes of the game, it wasn't looking any good for Scotland as Morocco came out of the traps and the Scots rumbled on like an unfit and confused unit who either looked like they were unprepared for this sudden first attack or perhaps were exhausted after their victory over Norway.

Scotland though did make a rare attack in the twelve minute when they won a corner and Dailly attempted to try and volley it into the back of the net but only succeeded in blasting it over the bar and into the disappointed and unhappy Scotland fans. Craig Brown though did think of that and he stood there on the touchline with his arms crossed and his eyes narrowed in concentration and he tried to figure out what to do to help them get a foothold in the game. However his thoughts were stopped when in the twenty-third minute, Morocco would take the lead thanks to a Bassir goal and now Morocco had leapfrogged the Scots to move into second place. A horrible feeling was felt by many Scots who knew now that they could have a short stay in France at this rate.

Brown then decided to change the formation to go from 4-4-2 to 4-3-1-2 in the hope that Scotland could get something here. Thankfully this change did start to lead to a few good signs for the Scots as in the twenty-seventh minute, Burley, playing behind Durie and Gallacher, almost found Scotland an equaliser when he attempted to volley the shot into the top left of the goal. The many members of the Tartan Army who had been covering their eyes following that Moroccan goal could start to feel a small bit of hope that this game was not over in the slightest. Even the new attacking formation was making it difficult to keep a now resurgent Scotland back and in the thirty-second minute, Gallacher would be brought down in the box by a tackle by Abrami and Scotland were awarded a penalty with John Collins stepping up to take it. He had scored the penalty against Brazil when they were a goal down in that game and now many of his countrymen watching the game would hope he'd do the same here.


Collins celebrates helping Scotland go 1-1 with Morocco
That would be the score of how the first half ended though despite Scotland looking the better side towards the end of the game, they couldn't add to that goal and in the second half, things would nearly went off the rails for the Scots. In which in the fifty-ninth minute, disaster struck for Scotland when Craig Burley took out his frustrations out on Bassier with a brutal tackle and it would lead for Burley getting a straight red card and would see him out of Scotland's next game in the second round, that is, if Scotland could get there first. Much like how Scotland's equaliser had done a lot to help Scotland find confidence, the sending off for Burley would do the same for Morocco and it was now the 10 man Scotland team trying their hardest to keep this game as a draw, it felt now that getting a victory for Scotland was out of the question and that it would be the African team that looked more likely to score.

For what felt like an age, Scotland were doing all they could to keep Morocco out and thankfully by the final fifteen minutes, it seemed that the African side were running out of steam and Scotland could start to push them back. Then more good news happened just a few minutes later when the roar of delight was heard by the Scotland fans in the ground as news had come through that Brazil had finally scored in the game with Norway and that was surely the group stage settled with many Scottish flags now waving around the stadium in joy. The joy though would quickly turn to concern when a further few minutes later in the eighty-third minute, news came through from that other game in which Norway had equalised and the group was now looking tight in which anything could happen.

Two minutes later though, Scotland would win a corner kick and here was a chance to find the winning goal. It would be taken and finding himself in just the right place, Collins saw the ball curling down towards him and he would bang in the ball to his left and scenes of utter joy would follow as now the Scots were in front and looking now comfortable that they had this game in the bag and though they would fail to add to the lead, that was all they needed as Scotland held on to record a 2-1 victory to book their place in the next round. It was just as well as they did get the victory for it turned out, Norway would actually go on to beat Brazil though it wasn't enough for the Norwegians to progress as Scotland would finish ahead of Norway by two points though it did mean that they finished behind Brazil on goal difference and in some ways had Scotland more fire power, they would have possibly won the group.


The sending off for Burley with the game at 1-1
The strange thing was as the many thousands of Scots left the stadium was that they all felt relief more than joy, they would now face the prospect of taking on Italy in the last 16 which didn't sound too exciting for the Scots. The night would be remembered when the Tommy Cooper-ness of the night would be unintentionally channelled by Craig Brown in which when a BBC crew pulled him over to one side after the final whistle and asked how did it feel to win. Not actually thinking straight with his mind being still on the game, he would reply by simply saying "Just Like That." The following day would see the Daily Record newspaper have Brown's face superimposed on Tommy Cooper with it's rather gleeful headline saying 'Just Like That!' Craig Brown would later on see the funny side of it, but then, he now had to get the team ready for their knockout stage adventure, hopefully it wouldn't be a short one...

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Final results of Scotland's group at the 1998 World Cup

When it came time for the Welsh, their World Cup campaign was something of a mad affair that had nearly ended in disaster. It had been a difficult transitional period for the national side with the great Ian Rush finally retiring from international duty after Euro '96, something that while hard to take, wasn't all that surprising given his age by this point. What was shocking though was that Wales' manager, Terry Yorath also joined Rush out the exit door. It was all but a mere speculation in the Welsh press as to why Yorath has decided to step down with although the FAW had offered him a further two year extension to his contract, it was unclear as to why he had decided to step down with some thinking that it was a dressing room mutiny or that with Rush retiring for playing for Wales that Yorath felt he'd done enough and thought a new generation deserved a chance.

The man to take over from Yorath leaving would be John Toshack who agreed to help his country qualify for the World Cup in France. However, even with new ideas and players on show, it was always going to be difficult to get use to the fact that Ian Rush was no longer there as for anyone under the age of fifteen, he was Wales and his absence made many fear that the national side would struggle and in some ways after some very heavy defeats to the Dutch in which they lost 3-1 at home and were routed 7-1 away, it seemed that everyone's worse fears were going to become a reality. However in the second half of their qualifying campaign, and after surviving many calls for Toshack to get the sack, he managed to rally the players and get them on a winning run going unbeaten and in a dramatic final match with the Belgians in Brussels, would see Wales snatch a victory and the play off spot for the World Cup. There in the play offs they would meet in an all Celtic affair with the Republic of Ireland in which Wales would win 4-2 on aggregate (3-1 at Home and 1-1 Away) and thus completed an insane qualification campaign that is fondly remembered for many Welsh football fans to this day.

Welsh excitement at being at the World Cup was however to the given a downer when they found out they were drawn in a group to face off their Dutch conquerors yet again and pretty much nobody gave the Welsh a chance to get something from it, the fact it was the opening match for them too didn't help much either. However despite being under the cosh for the most part and having virtually no scoring chances, Wales managed to hold of the Dutch to a 0-0 draw which would help give Wales a degree of confidence that a victory in their second group match with Mexico would no doubt be enough to secure their passage to the knockout stage. Or at least, that was what many had hoped would happen.


Vinnie Jones during the 0-0 draw with the Dutch
When the game's first half came to an end, the Welsh couldn't have hoped for a better game in which goals from Dean Saunders and Mark Hughes would see Wales storm into a 2-0 lead and looking set to get the victory that would send them through. When it came to the second half however, things all went off the rails in which following Wales giving away a penalty in the fifty-fifth minute, the Mexicans suddenly felt that they had a chance to get something from this game and just a few minutes later, they would in which Blanco would score Mexico's equaliser to allow the Mexicans an unlikely foothold back into the game and with it, the final result of 2-2. To say the Welsh press and supporters were far from happy from this outcome would be putting it bluntly as now Wales had only been able to pick up two points and their chances of reaching the second round were now hanging by a thread.

When it would become time to play the final group games, it really was anyone's game in which the Dutch and Mexicans had four points each, Wales two and South Korea with nothing, yet with the latter still being empty handed, there was still the chance that if they were to beat the Welsh then there was the sudden chance to make it into the next round. That was bad news for Wales who knew that even if they were to win, they would require either the Dutch or the Mexicans to win that game as a draw would make those three teams all tied and that it would all come down to goal difference in which only made things far more difficult to work out.

In the end however, Wales would finally come to life in that final group game in which a Saunders hattrick against the South Koreans would see the Welsh utterly batter the Koreans and there was good news from the other game in which right up towards the end of that game, the Dutch were beating the Mexicans 2-1 which meant as it stood, both they and the Welsh were going through. However right at the end of the game in which the Welsh supporters celebrated around the Parc des Princes in Paris, shock news emerged that the Mexicans had scored right at the death to level the game and now all three teams were level on five points and no one knew exactly who was going through.


Robbie Savage during the final group game with South Korea
It took sometime for everyone to know just who was going through but in the end, those three goals from Wales and a late save to deny the Koreans a consolation goal would all work in Wales' favour in which they would just sneak past the Mexicans in second place on goal difference though it was clear in which had that Korean goal been scored, Mexico would instead had gone through and Wales back on the first plane back home. Not that the Welsh fans in that moment cared about it as for now, they would celebrate long into the night and that their World Cup hopes were still there. Question as was now was who would they play in the next round...?

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Final results of Wales' group stage at the 1998 World Cup

Last but certainly not least was the case of England's group stage and ever since victory on home soil in the European Championship, things had been pretty much a roller coaster ride. Prior to the start of the tournament in which Terry Venables announced he would leave the job following the tournament, people at the time were rather indifferent to this yet in the end following England's crowning glory, the calls for him stay from both the press and the public all become too loud for him to ignore and after much debating among himself, he would go back to the FA to ask if an extension to his contract was possible. After what he had done, the FA had no trouble at all for him to stay in the job and with that, qualification for the World Cup in France was achieved and with it would see the return of a certain Paul Gascoigne to the World Cup.

To say that the career of Paul Gascoigne, better know in the media as Gazza, had been a crazy life would be an understatement. He burst on the scene during England's run to win the World Cup at Italia '90 and thanks to his fancy skills and his now famous tears of relief in the final that endeared him to the nation, it seemed after that the world would be his oyster and it really did look like that. After performing a spell at Tottenham, he would make the move in 1992 over to Italy where he would play at Lazio but sadly due to a bad luck of injuries, he would have a mixed bag of a career out there. Plus when the World Cup came round for 1994, the Geordie would sadly be unable to play for his country due to having a bad injury. His loss was felt as England had a poor run in the States and their defence of their title would end with an embarrassing loss to the Scots in the last 16. To this day many England fans would debate what if Gascoigne had been with the team in 1994 and how better their chances might've been.

Ironically, it would be Scotland that would provided Gascoigne with his renaissance as it would be Rangers that came calling for him in 1995 and in turn, he would set the whole of Scottish football on it's head when in the following year, despite losing the title to a rejuvenated Celtic the following year, he would help the Glasgow team win the Scottish cup and help them get them to the Champions League final, a game that they were well beaten 3-0 by Juventus. Nonetheless his time in Scotland had got him the nod to play for England during their Euro 96 campaign, though with the well known controversy about the drunken antics of him and his teammates in Hong Kong during a friendly didn't exactly put them in the English's press good books.

However he would help England to glory by winning the tournament, though it had to be those Scots again that they had to play again and he did wonder if he was going to get welcomed back to Scotland with open arms, however he would help Rangers win the title and league cup the follow season and quickly won back the faith of the Rangers support. With him missing out on the last World Cup, Gascoigne had mentioned that he wanted to play at least at one more World Cup and his wish would finally be granted when Venables would include him in his squad list on the trip to France. That being said, he would find his veteran status in the line up something of a strange irony as when he went out for Italia '90, he was one of the younger talents in the team that just so happened to be surrounded by many talented veterans, now it was the same here but vice versa as he would have to help guide some of these young, freshly talented players such as Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen and David Beckham just to name a few.


The man in action during France '98
Despite many wanting him to play in the opening match, Venables decided to place him on the bench and didn't play in part in their opening game with Tunisia, though with them winning that game 2-0, it didn't seem much of a loss with some wondering if really if Gascoigne was worth all the hassle though the game would sadly be infamous for what was happening around Marseille when England fans found themselves brawl with locals which only added to the hooligan image that the FA was desperate to try and shake off. There would be no major fights after that thankfully though it was in England's second group game with Romania, a surprise dark horse of the last World Cup, were proving to everyone that they were not a one hit wonder as they made it hard for England to try and get at them and had dragged England to a 0-0 draw at half time. Then it got worse for England when right in the first minute of the second half, Romania's Moldovan would strike first and saw the English a goal down.

Thankfully, England would start to get back into the game as they started to create chances and the inclusion of Michael Owen in the seventy-second minute would prove the world that he was one hell of a talent that made even Gascoigne impressed by what he saw. Around parts of the stadium, pockets of England fans began chanting, 'We want Gazza!' demanding for him to get on the field as the game was still had the Romanians leading 1-0. Of course the chants quickly turned to cheers in the eighty-first minute, not that they got what they wanted from Venables, but that Owen would fire in the goal that help get England back into the game. Now all that was needed in the final closing minutes was for England to go in for the kill and win this game, though the Romanians were not going to give up so soon as they also tried to find the winning goal.

With five minutes to go, Venables look back on the bench and gave Gascoigne the nod of approval and that was only thing he needed to get the motivation to get off the bench and get ready to get on the field. The welcoming cheer that greeted him as he ran on the field to replace Paul Scholes was really something else, the English fans greeted him as a long lost friend who had come their aid in their desperate hour. From the moment he started playing in the game, he showed everyone that even in his thirties he still had much of the skill that had won him much praise by many and even nearly helped England find a winning goal in which in the eighty-seventh minute, he tried to fire on the volley at goal but it was the hands of Romanian's Bogdan Stelea that would keep the goal out.


Romania getting the opening goal during the game

Nonetheless in the closing minutes and thanks to Gascoigne being in the team, England were now clearly in the ascendancy and now the Romanians were finding it difficult to try and get themselves out of their own half. At this rate, the best they could do was hold on for a point and hope England wouldn't score late on, how very wrong they were to be. In the eighty-ninth minute, England won a free kick some twenty yards out with Beckham going up to take it and it was likely that the young Manchester United player might've thought of trying his luck from that position, yet he saw Gascoigne in a unmarked area with seemly most of the Romanian players trying to stifle out Alan Shearer from getting a chance.

The referee blows his whistle and Beckham knocks the ball over to his right where Gascoigne is, totally fooling a 5 man Romanian wall that were trying to stop him, and with a lovely side footed volley, Gascoigne would fire home the ball into the right side of the goal looking set to go in but much to his disappointment and to many across England, the goal hits the post and he cuts the look of a frustrated figure. In his prime, he would have easily buried that goal to give England the victory and thus, the game would end 1-1 with Gascoigne getting some unwanted attention about that miss and how he should have scored it. Strangely, none of the press seem to take note at the fact that even though it was a draw, England had pretty much given themselves a good position to be in going into the final group match with Columbia.

This time, Gascoigne would start the game and this time, all seemed forgiven in which England would romp to a 2-0 victory over the Columbians thanks to goals from Anderton and Beckham which in the end would see them win the group that not only would see them join their fellow Home Nations in the next round but (hopefully) down a favourable path that would lead onwards to the final. For now though most in England were happy to be there in the next round yet everyone also knew that things were far from done. What was to happen next for all three Home Nations in France? No one knew...

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Final results of England's group stage at the 1998 World Cup

And here we are with France '98! Now this is where there a several changes made compared to the old TL in which I feel makes things a little bit more real for all concern such as each team not winning all their group games despite all being better compared to OTL, mostly with Scotland and Wales. Anyway as always, here are the fixtures going forward into the next update:

Italy vs Scotland

Brazil vs Chile

France vs Paraguay

Nigeria vs Denmark

Germany vs Wales

Netherlands vs Yugoslavia

England vs Croatia

Argentina vs Romania

So who will get through and why? Until then, catch you all later! And yes, Scotland doesn't have that certain WC song to go along with us for France '98...good TL you think? Avoided Ally's Tartan Army so that's a thing, huh...
So for those of us of a certain age, I have to point out the law of the land which states you can only read the above chapter by listening to this

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Italy vs Scotland
Brazil vs Chile
France vs Paraguay
Denmark vs Nigeria
Germany vs Wales
Netherlands vs Yugoslavia
Croatia vs England
Argentina vs Romania
Round of 16
Italy 2-1 Scotland
Brazil 4-1 Chile
France (a.s.d.e.t.) 1-0 Paraguay
Denmark 4-1 Nigeria
Germany 2-1 Wales
Netherlands 2-1 FR Yugoslavia
Croatia 1-0 England
Argentina 2-1 Romania

Italy 1-1 (p) Brazil
France 2-1 Denmark
Germany 1-2 Netherlands
Croatia 0-1 Argentina

Brazil 0-3 France
Netherlands 2-1 Argentina

Bronze match
Brazil 0-1 Argentina

France 2-1 Netherlands
Italy vs Scotland

vs Chile

vs Paraguay

Nigeria vs Denmark

Germany vs Wales

vs Yugoslavia

vs Croatia

vs Romania (Simeone gets Hagi sent off and becomes a hate figure in Romania)
Italy vs Scotland

Brazil vs Chile

France vs Paraguay

Nigeria vs Denmark

Germany vs Wales

vs Yugoslavia

England vs Croatia

Argentina vs Romania
Chapter 64: And That's That
Chapter 64
And That's That

After a poor opening with Brazil at the start of the tournament, few expected Scotland to pull it off and get out of the group. Those who had made a bet on such a scenario were to be left with empty pockets as Scotland had managed to get out the group and not only that, but could've even won the group had they scored more goals, but the main thing was that Scotland had qualified for the last sixteen with an encounter with the Italians. While many of the Tartan Army were booking their flights and tickets for the game in Marseille, it should've been a great time for the Scottish players to bask in the moment of their progression, but unknown to everyone, things were about to all get out of hand for the team. One downside was that Craig Burley would not be playing due to the red card he had gotten during the final group match with Morroco and that was something that Scotland could do without though as it would play out, that would not be the worst of what was to happen for Scotland...

Just two nights before their big game, many of the players had decided after one training exercise to have a drink at the bar in their hotel with Craig Burley leading the party (he was suspended for the next game due to the red card he had gotten in the game with Morocco) and at first it all seemed a nice quiet evening for the players to enjoy themselves, Craig Brown and his staff had headed up to their rooms to turn in for the night. Then during all this, a local Frenchman, looking like he was in his forties, had been hanging around the bar, it was unknown if he was a guest, visitor or someone a bit suspicious, either way it seems that there was a lack of security in the room.

For what felt like half an hour, the man didn't do anything other than sip his drink as he watched the Scottish players having a good chuckle with themselves before he slowly made his way over to join them. The team stopped their laughing when they saw the man approach him, he was a rather pudgy fellow with square glasses and a goatee beard and there was something about this man that looked odd as he stared at each of them.

Finally he spoke, "Bonjour, Ecosse êtes-vous?"

John Collins, who knew a bit of French thanks to his time playing at Monaco, decided to speak to man. "Qu'est-ce que c'est? Tout va bien?"

The Frenchman replied saying, "Tu veux que je te rejoigne?"

"What's he saying?" Asked Gordon Durie.

Collins looked back at his players with a rather bemused look. "He's wanting to have a drink wi' ok with this?"

His fellow teammates looked at each other not knowing what think of this unexpected request, that was before Paul Lambert spoke up. "Don't see why not, we're ambassadors fer Scotland, so I guess it's only right to be friendly."

The rest of the team nodded and muttered in agreement in which the Frenchman seem to understand that he was welcomed to join them due to their body language. "Merci," replied the Frenchman, "je vais vous chercher un verre."

And with that, he left them and headed over to where a bartender was cleaning one of the glasses as he went over to speak with him.

"What's he saying now?" Tom Boyd asked as he watched the man talked to the bartender.

"He wants to get us a drink," Collins replied with a hint of suspicion in his voice as he glanced between his teammates and the man. To their amazement, the Frenchman had brought them a large tray of full pints of beer before he placed in on the table and motioned them to enjoy. Reluctantly, the players accepted and began to drink and only intended to stay down there for an hour before getting to bed, two hours went by and they and the man were enjoying themselves, another hour went by and now they had gotten quite drunk with them now posing for funny poses for the Frenchman to take pictures with a camera in which due to them now being quite drunk, they didn't seem to realise this. The following day, a picture of the team having a booze up in a French pub was front page news in the British newspapers.

With that, all hell broke loose; the team came under fire from all angles and especially in the Scottish press who lamented that their own side had fallen to the levels of the England team referring to the latter team's infamous drunken time in Hong Kong prior to Euro '96. No one knew what happened to that Frenchman that night as he was never found again in the hotel and rumours swirled around in Scottish circles that he was possible a spy acting for the Italians to try and throw a spanner in the works for the Scots and disrupt them. That may sound crazy but then again given out of the controversial stories around Italian football regarding scandals, it wasn't quite far fetched if one was to think more about it.

Whatever the reason, this was the last thing the Scots needed and on the day their pictured appeared in the front page, Craig Brown lost the plot and went full mental at his players which was so unlike the normally good natured Scottish manager and this uncharacterized nature from him shook many of the players, with Colin Hendry recalling the events as such:

"He just went at us; never seen him look so angry that it was almost like it wasn't the same guy that I respected. Not only that, but we were vilified back home in all the papers but I will agree that it was perhaps the most craziest moment I've had with the National Side and I'm sure that wee French fella was out to get us. I just wish I never agree to take a drink."
Colin Hendry - Match of the World Cup, BBC 2002


Craig Brown during some happier moments at France '98; a far contrast of what was to follow
Even on the day of the match, that infamous event still hung over the team as when the team bus arrived at the stadium, they saw many of their fans, along with many Italian supporters, there to see them, but rather than cheer them, they simply give them a small clap as they trundled by. It was a terrible feeling that sunk down into the stomach of the players and they were more worried about their own supporters than the Italian team themselves. Craig Brown glared at the players and now he was seriously considering his future as Scotland manager as even if they were to somehow win the World Cup after all this, he felt ashamed at what had happened and didn't want to have any part of it. Not that he couldn't think far ahead as now they had play Italy, the runner's up in the last World Cup and always a tough team for Scotland to try and play with memories of their last encounter in the World Cup Stateside in which Scotland managed to go 2-1 up on that occasion before Italy turned it around and won 3-2. That all said, it had proven to be the best game of the tournament though. All he could do was hope his tactics worked and that lady luck would smile on them.

Even before the game started, the Scottish fans had found themselves in a few problems as much like what English supporters had gotten themselves in for with fights in the streets of Marseille, the locals had been rocked by what the English had brought to the city and this time they were not going to take any more hooligan trouble and it seemed that they were all out to get out at the Scots and the good natured Tartan Army were looking like lost and frightened animals with rumours of some unfortunate Scottish fans being attacked (though later this was never confirmed and was likely a scaremongering story). To compound the problem further, it didn't help the mood of the fans who in the wake of the drunken photos being revealed had all fallen out of love with the team over their drunken moment of madness, even with the teams lined up for the anthems, the Tartan Army didn't sing Flower of Scotland with the gusto as many expected they would. It was almost if the fans themselves didn't want to be there and given that they were playing Italy who were pretty much expected to crush the Scot, it didn't seem hard to figure out why.

However credit to the Scots, playing in their change yellow kit, they went out on the offensive as if they were willing to make it up for their fans and Durie nearly managed to score in the fourth minute when the ball crashed on the cross bar and went out for a Italian goal kick. It was early days for sure, but it was showing that Scotland were willing to fight. The Italians themselves looked stunned and clearly hadn't expected the Scots to put up such a fight given what had happened to them and did struggle early on to make a clear cut chance as the Scots were undoubtfully getting the best of the chances. The sun blazed down on the field as the Scottish players started to sweat after just seventeen minutes of play while the Italians looked more comfortable in the heat and this would surely become more apparent in the game as what felt like in an instant, the thirty-seventh minute of the first half, Italy had now started to cause the Scots more problems on their backline and had found their style of play again in which the Scots were now struggling for ideas and right then in that very minute, Dino Baggio would cross the ball into the Scottish penalty area in which Vieri was there and he simply leapt up and header home the ball to give Italy the lead.


Joy after Italy's opening goal with Scotland
The second half became that bad for the Scots that the Tartan Army actually started cheering every pass the Italians made as the Scotland team could do nothing more than chase shadows. TV footage of the game would be well remembered of a rather downhearted looking Craig Brown sitting on the bench with his hand on his chin and pondering what could he do to help his side get through, however it was becoming clear that Burley's absence in the team was clearly being felt by his countrymen. During the fifty-fifth minute when things were looking desperate for Scotland, Brown would roll the dice and make a double substation of taking off both Lambert and Jackson and brought on Scott Booth and Kevin Gallacher to help try and bring more fire power for Scotland. In some ways, it did work as Scotland did started moving forward, but every promising attempt was quickly snuffed out by an Italian player who seemed keen to add to their lead and in the fifty-ninth minute, Italy won a free kick some twenty-five yards away from the box thanks to a foul by David Weir on Moriero and up stepped Dino Baggio to take it and faced a yellow shirted Scottish wall in front who now were looking tired from all the work they had been doing to keep the game at 1-0.

Sadly for them their efforts there were to go wrong when Baggio slammed the ball over the Scottish wall and into the left side of the net in which poor Leighton tried his best to save it, but the ball would come off his glove and would hit the net. Scotland were 2-0 and sinking fast with everything looking all wrong for them. By this point with the game rolling into it's sixty-seventh minute, the Italian supporters were making a right din while the Tartan Army looked dejected and were very likely thinking of leaving the stadium and going home as it was clear that their team's time in this World Cup was about to come to an end. Craig Brown, while standing on the touchline shouting out orders which were mainly not to look even more stupid as they were now, the dejected Scotland manager shuffled over towards the bench and rested his hands on the top part of the glass covering. He clearly looked like a man who had ran out of ideas.

As much as Italy could've gone out and scored a few more goals to give Scotland the worst possible sending off present from France, they didn't decide to do that mercifully and instead opted to showboat and pass the ball around with cries of 'ole!' from their delighted supporters, even some of the Tartan Army joined in sarcastically with nothing else to cheer about. Eventually the second half would draw out slowly to a close and in the end, Italy would win by that result and move into the Quarter finals. In hindsight, it was a Scotland team that was well past it's prime by this point and probably couldn't do anything else to light up the tournament, though many younger stars would start moving through the ranks to take over from the old guard.


Durie thanks the fans after their 2-0 defeat to Italy that see's them exit the World Cup, note the yellow away kit for the match
Even without the scandal that had hindered the Scottish player a lot prior to the game, it was always going to be a tough game to match the Italians and the only comfort Craig Brown could take from this was that it could've been a lot worse really. Hard to imagine that this was nearly the same team that came close to winning silverware two years ago only to turn into a rather lacklustre and ancient looking team. However the truth was it was the first time since 1986 that Scotland had failed the reach the Quarter finals of a World Cup and a lot of rework would be needed to improve in preparation for the upcoming European championship qualifiers and a place in Belgium and Holland for that tournament. A thoughtful Craig Brown would leave France with a lot to think about for his side and his future as the manager, but now, the journey had come to an end for Scotland. On the other hand, they hadn't quite come home too soon...

After the Scots would make their exit from the tournament, next up to try their luck at making it to the Quarter finals would be Wales on June 29th who would face of the Germans. For many, when it was seen that they would be playing the Germans that it was going to be a tough ask, but Wales thought that they might have a chance and one former player, a certain Ian Rush, believed that Wales could cause an upset here. For UK viewers, the game was to be broadcast on ITV and Rush would be in the studio acting as a TV pundit to debate with the other studio guests to discuss Wales' chances of beating Germany. Not surprisingly, many of those in the studios seemed to think that Germany would do the business and that Wales would be sent packing.

Surely they had to give Wales a chance? Then again his fellow pundits were English and some of that rivalry with the Welsh was showing through, he swear he could remember a smug look on Jimmy Hill's face, over on the BBC, when the Scots fell to the Italians and went on saying that Scotland were lucky to get that far and didn't have anything in it; the arrogance over their Euro '96 victory was starting to get on everyone's nerves who wasn't English. Granted he knew of the Welsh/Scottish rivalry that had started to take effect in recent yearss, but here he was willing to put differences aside and share his sympathy with the Scots. As they all went into detail saying by how much the Germans were going to win by, did they all forget that in recent years, Wales hadn't done so bad with the Germans such as a victory in 1991 and a draw just two years ago, both of which Rush did have a hand in doing.


Welsh fans, during an interview for ITV News in Montpellier prior to their match with Germany

Plus that wasn't putting into question that this German team was not only mostly the same one that had fell in the Semi finals of Euro '96 but also one that was past its prime so Rush and many of his fellow countrymen all felt that they had good reason to feel positive about the upcoming game. As the broadcast cut to a commercial break, Rush headed over to a nearby telephone and pulled out a roll of paper with a number on it. He dialled in a few numbers and waited to hear a response as the phone rang out, it would be long until he heard a voice on the other end.

"Hello?" Came a certain voice.

"Is that you, John?" Rush asked.

"Indeed you found the right guy," replied the voice of the Welsh manager, John Toshack. "How's it going?"

"Pretty shitty here," Rush joked darkly as he glanced back at the pundits all sharing in a joke about something. "Don't think you've got a TV in your dressing room showing ITV?"

Toshack paused. "No telly here, let alone coverage of the game, what are they saying?"

"You don't want to know," Rush sighed. "All they are saying is that you're going to get whacked by the Germans. I feel exhausted trying to prove a point that Wales have a chance, you know?"

The Welsh manager chuckled on the other end. "Oh yeah? You mean that rabbled you've been forced to deal with? I feel sorry on your end, feels much easier down here."

Rush then noticed one of the crew members was motioning Rush to get back to the couch as they would be back on air soon. "Look John I've got to go now, do us a favour by telling the lads what they've been saying about us, lie if you want, and beat the Germans...Can't wait to see the look on their faces when done."

"I'll try," Toshack chuckled. "A favour from one Welshman to another." And with that, the call ended and Rush headed over the annoying bunch, he just hoped that everything would be alright...

What followed in that first half was, to put in bluntly, a rotten affair. It had ended 0-0 though despite the Germans giving the poor Welsh a battering and getting a few decent chances, Wales had been brave throughout that first half, Rush was kicking himself in the studio when Dean Saunders squandered a wonderful chance in the thirty-seventh minute to take the lead in which German keeper, Andreas Köpke, was sent the wrong way and Saunders had an open goal to fire at, but he made an absolute howler of it when he couldn't get his foot on the ball right and sent the ball wide of the post. That miss had been the main topic of the pundits in that studio with then going on about how it was Wales' best chance of the game and if they were ever to get another chance like that again and even Rush was starting to find it difficult to try and justify Wales having a chance of victory.


Giggs during the start of the second half

Rush though felt positive despite standing the face of impossible odds. To him, the fact that Germany hadn't scored yet was a good thing and as the teams went out onto the field to start off the second half, Rush sat back in his seat as he and his colleagues all began to watch the second half. This time, Wales started off well as not only were they keeping what was now starting to show a very tired German team, but also were pressing further up the field and surely there was a chance for something to happen here and Rush rubbed his hands together with him muttering under his breath, "punt it up to Dean." In the forty-seventh minute, Ryan Giggs would get the ball from Rob Edwards and would take flight with the ball and run right down on that left German flank with the Welsh supporters in the crowd rising to their feet as expectation seemed to flow through their veins.

The feeling got more stronger as Giggs managed to outwit the likes of Heinrich, Helmer and Babbel and from right on the left side of the penalty box, Giggs fired home a powerful shot that hit the underside of the roof of the net and to the amazement of many, Wales had taken the lead! Rush wouldn't remember the celebrations from Giggs as the latter found himself piled on by his teammates and for the former Welsh star watching the game couldn't help but leap out of his chair and punch his fist in the air.

"GET IN!" He bellowed out before clapping happily as he sat back in his chair, "what a goal son, let's do this!"

He didn't care of the bemused looks on his fellow pundits faces, but he was more happy at the fact that Wales had gotten the best start to the second half, another goal would surely seal it for Wales. In the fifty-sixth minute, he would make noise again (knowing that their reactions were not being broadcast live), though this time out of anger over a yellow card that Savage would get over a tackle on Thomas Helmer. "Wasn't even a bloody card," Rush hissed angrily, "bet this referee will try and swing it in favour for Germany."


Thomas Häßler trying to help get German back into the game
Wales' opening goal would indeed get the Germans come out fighting and started to play much better, almost if they had just realised that they were heading for a shock exit if things were to remain like this. Chances would come for the Germans but they would be let down by their final finish would see the ball either fall over the goal or be saved quite comfortably by Wales' own keeper, Paul Jones, who funnily enough had a much easier game than he dared thought, though Rush's eyes would glance over at the top left of the TV screen and see the time now at 66:39 (or sixty-six minutes played for those not in the know) with score still at 1-0 for Wales and he was fearing that their lead was a slender one and the more Germany kept attacking then the more chance there was for a German goal sooner than later. It was unclear who was more scared here, the Germans who knew time was running out or the Welsh who felt time was going slow.

Rush didn't know what to feel, all he wanted was a second goal for Wales that would kill this game surely. "Come on lads, don't let me down," he uttered as he clenched the armrests on his chair, tension was now getting to him.

With just sixteen minutes left, it would be a nerve shredder moment in which Germany came forward in which the ball would be crossed over to Klinsmann in which Paul Jones had to throw his body towards the ground and pull of perhaps the save of his life by landing on top of the ball and preventing a German goal.

"What a save son!" Rush yelled excitedly and applauded with glee. That was certain to be a German goal, Wales were still in this game and surely they must've felt that they had a chance to win this game. Another ten minutes rolled by in which the game became heavily contested in the midfield and Wales were certainly giving the Germans a tough game who it was becoming clear that the larger football nation seemed to have underestimated them and their frustration boiled over in which Tarnet would get a booking over a brief spat with Chris Coleman in the eighty-forth minute.


Dean Saunders during the game with Germany
Then not so long after that just two minutes later, Wales were awarded a free kick from outside the penalty box and Dean Saunders stood up to take it and stared at the goals with great intensity as he planned how to beat that German defensive wall. The referee blew and he curled the ball up and over the wall and it would nestle right into the right hand corner of the back of the net and the Welsh supporters both in the stadium and everywhere watching that game would've all jumped up for joy as they were so close to reaching their first World Cup Quarter final since Mexico '86. No more happy than this was Ian Rush who once again leapt up from his seat and roared with delight as that ball went in. He glanced over and saw the glum or embarrassed face pundits who were all starting to realise that their predictions of a win for Germany and a Wales defeat were all going up in smoke.

As the game went into the final three minutes of added injury time, many Germany supporters began leaving the ground in dismay and anger over their team's lacklustre performance and a humiliating loss. There would be some consolation towards the end when right in the last minute of injury time, Klinsmann would deny Wales a clean sheet and get a goal back for Germany, but it was all for nothing as that large scoreboard inside the Stade de la Mosson that was now reading Allemagne 1 - 2 Pays de Galles. Anyone in Wales that night will remember the wild celebrations that went on well into the night as they had caused a huge upset and the thought of being just three games away from winning the whole thing seemed now possible; football fever had now all but gripped Wales that summer of 1998.

They had knocked out one of the big boys and many red face punters who predicted a Germany victory were left muttering that football is a funny game and that the German national side was in trouble with this loss being the wake up call. The loss itself would go down as one of Germany's most humiliating results and Wales' finest with Ian Rush sporting a Cheshire cat grin over his fellow punters and accusing them for doubting about Wales' chances, something that many of his fellow countrymen all got a right kick out of seeing. Now Wales would travel to Lyon where they were to face either Croatia or England, and one of those sides had many licking their lips in great excitement over. Either way, all British eyes would mow be turned onto England as they became the next Home Nation to play. Was there to be more shocks in this World Cup following that result...?

A day later after Wales' victory over Germany that sent them into the last eight, it was time for England to try and follow their Welsh counterparts into the next round. That said though, things were all that comfortable for England as Alan Shearer was a nervous man as he led out his teammates on to the Parc Lescure in Bordeaux. The sound that was coming from the madcap Croatia supporters up on the terraces was something to behold as for once, the English support looked stumped on how to counteract on the new nation they were to face, though in many ways one could hardly blame for the pride being shown by the Croatians. Born out of the ashes of the Yugoslavian war that saw the once great football country of Yugoslavia collapse and saw the rise of many independent nations rising up with Croatia being one of them and this would be their debut at a World Cup (their first tournament being just two years was at Euro '96 which by chance was set in England).

England, with all their resources, rich football heritage and a recent European Championship title to their name, were favourites in this game, but Shearer was wary to simply write of the Croatians as the little nation had nothing to lose and from the first blast of the referee's whistle, Croatia showed everyone how stubborn and spirted they really were when right in the seventh minute or putting England under a bit of the cosh, Goran Vlaović would fire a shot across the England goal line that had it gone an inch further to the side, then it might've gone in. It was a very strange opening half for England who looked quite jaded when compared to the likes of Croatia who had been the better team in this opening half, even the skills of Paul Gascoigne seemed weakened here as if he was being held back by some invisible ball and chain.


Owen tries to help his team get a foothold in the match

Every time an England player wasted a pass that was collected by a Croatian player, their own supporters would either groan or boo in frustration, they should've been on top of the Croatians, not the other way around! England though would finally get something of a good chance in the eighteenth minute when Beckham crossed a shot into the box in the hope of Shearer getting his head onto it and send that ball into the back of the net. He would get his head on it but he had too much power on the ball and instead only succeeded in sending the ball flying up and over the crossbar into a row of goading Croatian fans. Over on the bench, Sir Terry Venables (now proudly knighted following the tournament) looked a frustrated man as he sat there on the bench as the plucky Croatians seem to outwit England at every possibility with passing and such. He was almost thinking abut those people watching on TV and wondering if all the hype of those pundits fancying England's chances of winning the World Cup and gaining a double were all about to blow in their faces and if this England side was all that good according to many of those pundits and media outlets.

Did the players believe in the hype that seemed to flying at all angles? Venables hoped not, then again winning the European Championship on home soil had made him and the team media darlings, though when he thought about it more, they were lucky even then. Their opponents in the final, Scotland, had really pushed them all the way with them coming from behind and nearly few minutes away from the winning it, and even when England did win it with a Golden goal, few would remember that McCoist almost scored a Golden goal that could've seen the Scots winning the final in their arch rival's backyard and if they had done that...he dared not even worth speculating about it. Would he still have the England job? He had only stayed on after the overwhelming demand from much of the public to so even though he had made it clear he would leave after Euro '96. Would they have any hype going in this if they hadn't won it and would they've been a better team?

So many questions but yet the England manager could only put these thoughts at the back of his mind as he focused on the game currently taking place. Thankfully for him in the twenty-eighth minute, England had finally started to work out how to stop the underdog nation by pushing them back and seeing the likes of Shearer, Owen and Gascoigne all trying their hand at breaking the deadlock with the young Michael Owen being the one in the thirty-third minute coming the closest to scoring when he raced through a gap in the defence and when in the box went out to fire at the goal, though only succeeded in firing the ball straight at Croatian keeper, Ladić who had no trouble in getting his hands on it.


Vlaović during the game with England
Fouls were not far away as then in the thirty-fifth minute, Croatian captain, Boban, and Paul Ince would come together in a clash for a loose ball which saw both players fall on each other and the two of them getting into an argument over who was at fault. Even the Argentine referee for the game didn't know who to blame so instead went out and booked both players, much to their dismay. But that wasn't to be the end of it as combined with England trying their hardest to break the deadlock along with Croatia being a very stubborn customer who looked more keen to simply frustrate England and wait for their moment, it was proving to be a very stop/start game that wasn't going to please many watching it as fouls started to happen all over the place and the poor referee was having a difficult time in keeping the game flowing. He must've felt that it was going to be one of those days.

With five minutes to go until the break, Croatia who at this point had done pretty much nothing, went on a sudden counter attack run on England's left flank with Asanović going on the run down there and crossed the ball over into the box in the hope of Davor Šuker getting on it and making some magic. The ball curled downwards in the box and Šuker tried to do a one footed volley towards the England goal and Seaman went diving onto the left but saw in his horror the ball going straight down the middle. But football works in strange ways and to his shock, the ball instead went off his leg and curled upwards into the air to land on the roof of the net and out for a Croatian corner, the England goalkeeper lay on his back with relief and he look on his face really said it all.

The following corner kick would be cleared easily by Sol Campbell and the ball would be launched up the field and England now hoped just to waste time and go in a half time to regroup. After some wayward passing from England later, they managed to get to the end of the first half with the game still goalless. To put it bluntly, it was hardly a good game of football with Croatia clearly giving England a run for their money and it would be difficult to debate which one of the two sides would be the more happier at this point and regardless, the second half needed to be better to the many thousands of fans up in the stands looking unimpressed so far.


Shearer cuts a frustrated figure during the last sixteen game with Croatia

Thankfully for many, the second half would prove to be a more free flowing half with it being quite clear that both managers had really laid into their players to act better in the second half. It would be end to end action with it looking like either side could score and was a far contrast to that dinge fest in the first half with then just after four minutes into the second half, Shearer slammed home a wonderful volley that slammed into the back of the net and this set up much joy among the English, but his and many of his fellow countrymen's joy was short lived as the linesman had no trouble in raising his flag in ruling his effort offside and giving Croatia a big sigh of relief for that. Nonetheless, England kept pressing for an opening goal with Croatia trying too, though England by this point were now piling the pressure on Croatia and looking the more likely to score here.

Then in the fifty-seventh minute after much heaving and huffing, England won a free kick right near on the edge of the field with Beckham up to take it. He swung it over to the box and with a powerful and downward header, Owen sent the ball into the bottom right of the net and at long last with the flag remaining down, England had found the breakthrough and at last the English supporters could have something to cheer about. Croatia tried to move out of their half and push forward into the English half, but their frustration was starting to show in the sixty-second minute, Slaven Bilić would get a booking for a bad foul on Gascoigne and not long after that in the seventieth minute, an English player would also get a yellow card being Beckham for a shove on Jarni and this saw many of the Croatia players and fans cry out wanting a more harsher punishment, though Beckham would give off free this time...

With twelve minutes to go, England would win a corner and by this point, England had kept themselves looking promising for another goal while Croatia were looking slack and exhausted. Even their previously noisy supporters had now lost their voice over the growing realisation that this game would slowly slipping away from them. The corner is taking and up comes Shearer to leap up into the air and headed in the goal to give England a 2-0 lead, by this point it is all over. Croatia finally give up and England held on to win the game. By no means was it a classic game by all accounts, but what matters from an English perspective is that they were through to the Quarter Finals for a clash with the Welsh lying in wait.


Despite losing, Croatia celebrate with their supporters while holding their flag

While England may have won the game here, it is Croatia who win the praise from the neutral French supporters in the ground for their plucky spirt and go on a lap of honour around the ground holding up their national flag in front of the spectators in the stadium just as the English players were leaving down the tunnel. By the looks of pride on the faces of the Croatians, some might have been mistaking that they had won though given the circumstances sawing the independence of Croatia in the few years by this point, it did mean a little bit more for some. For some who had been following the team in their short existence would suspect that Croatia would be a team that could really go places in the future and that would certainly be the case many years later all of that is another story. Regardless whoever was to win in the next match, there was a guarantee of a British team in the Semi finals and for now, it was time for England to celebrate.

And there we are, one down, two to go. Most of the results are pretty much the same as in the old TL though there has been some changes made such of tidying things up such as spelling, grammar and other various things to make things better. Anyway hope you enjoyed this update and as always, the fixture list for the Quarter-Finals.
Brazil vs Denmark

Netherlands vs Argentina

Italy vs France

Wales vs England
So who will win and why? Until, I'll be see you all later next with an earlier than planned update due to me heading on holiday that would normally disrupt the usual Wednesday schedule. See you soon for Wales vs England in Lyon!
Brazil vs Denmark
Netherlands vs Argentina
France vs Italy
England vs Wales

Brazil vs Netherlands
France vs England

3rd Place Game
Netherlands vs England

France vs Brazil

Seems that England does a lot better here. Getting to the semifinals after winning Euro 96, makes me feel that Terry will either leave England on a high note, or stay for Euro 2000.
Wonder what Germany's excuse for losing to Wales was! IOTL, after they lost to Croatia, they said it was the German government's fault for being among the first to recognise Croatia as independent; if they hadn't, it'd still have been part of Yugoslavia and wouldn't have been playing!

Anyway, Brazil, the Netherlands, France and England to reach the semis.
Wonder what Germany's excuse for losing to Wales was! IOTL, after they lost to Croatia, they said it was the German government's fault for being among the first to recognise Croatia as independent; if they hadn't, it'd still have been part of Yugoslavia and wouldn't have been playing!

Anyway, Brazil, the Netherlands, France and England to reach the semis.
Honestly, the German team of the late 1990's to early 2000's was something of busted flush with the exception of that 2002 run to the final in which had they not lucked up with a soft group and route to the final then it's highly doubtful they would have gotten that far.

With Wales having not only a stronger team here and perhaps add a touch of German arrogance then it all leads to this happening.
Chapter 65: Three Lions And A Dragon
Chapter 65
Three Lions And A Dragon

There was always a buzz whenever the Home Nations were drawn together at a tournament either in the group stage or in the knockout stage, and on July 4th, that day would be prove to be no exception when England and Wales were to meet head on in the Quarter finals in Lyon. As one would expect there was a big build up to this game with that thrilling Euro '96 game still fresh on everyone's mind and the Welsh looking keen for a rematch. The start of the day didn't prove to have the best start however when despite a big police presence in town, trouble did flair up with fights taking place between supporters though the latter would claim that they had been provoked by unruly locals looking to cause trouble for both sets of supporters. Either way, it was yet another black mark with the British football supporters abroad. Nonetheless what many didn't realise then was that this game was to be the last ever Home Nation meeting a World Cup for this century; all that mattered for both teams was to try and beat the other side.

The Stade de Gerland was filling up nicely with a mix of red and white shirted supporters which all amounted to just over forty-four thousand of them in there and the flags of England and Wales were draped from up on the upper tier and the good weather would help create a great atmosphere inside the stadium and more so when the two teams emerged from the tunnel. On the Welsh bench, John Toshack held a hopeful expression that maybe his band of dragons could cause an upset and this game had a lot riding on it as both sides felt they could win as whoever won this game would be in the Semi finals. If that didn't encourage the players on the field to have a go then he'd didn't know what would. England had made heavy work to dispatch the stubborn Croatians and had not impressed many on their World Cup chances, however the early opening moments of this game looked like it was going to be a long day for Wales as in the second minute, Owen nearly sent the ball crossing in the left of the net in which Chris Coleman had to get in there and kick it up for a England corner kick.

Wales couldn't do much in attack other than make a serious of niggly fouls on the English players in which made the poor Norwegian referee find it difficult trying to keep the game moving, though the cries of foul from the English players and supporters all wanted action on this stubborn Welshmen. One interesting piece of note that many were interested in knowing, mostly from a Manchester United perspective, would be Welshman Ryan Giggs taking on his English Manchester United teammates Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Teddy Sheringham and David Beckham and how that would affect the game; the Class of '92 as it was. It had been a question that Giggs had been asked by the press on how he'd respond to this, though the answer he gave to the press was that playing for club or country were two very different things and in a funny turn of events, it would be Giggs that would gain the first booking of the game in the twelve minute when he made barge of Neville in which he tried pressing forward and sent the Englishman tumbling to the ground.


Ryan Giggs in the early moments in the game with England
To perhaps the surprise of no one, it was a action that sent the Welsh supporters in the stadium and across Wales to roar in delight, but not so for the referee who had no trouble in bringing his yellow card and showing it to Giggs which did see much of the Welsh supporters boo the referee as if he was a pantomime villain. England were pressing high up the field in which Venables could be seen on the touchline shouting at his players to keep going in the mindset that the Welsh defence would eventually crumble from an English onslaught. However Wales' back four of Coleman, Symons, Jenkins and Edwards along with their keeper Paul Jones seemed to happily soak up the pressure by knocking the ball off the field, though it wasn't a display that was going to ease the heartrates of the poor red shirted Welsh fans in Lyon.

In the nineteenth minute and not long after he had been the victim of a foul, it would be Neville that would find himself get a booking over when he had to tackle Mark Hughes to the ground and allowed for Wales to take a free kick from eighteen yards out from the box, a very good area. Hughes fired the shot and it looked for a moment the ball was going to land into the goal but instead would hit on the crossbar, bouncing upwards to go out of play and out for a English goal kick. Relief for the Three Lions but agonising for the Welsh, nonetheless though the game did start to pick up for Wales as they did try and go on the counter making life difficult for the English. A minute later would see England keeper David Seaman kick the ball far up the field and the ball would end up be knocked round the midfield in which neither side came close to scoring.

By the twenty-seventh minute, the game was, despite a lack of goals, was turning into something of an elaborate chess game with one wrong move being what was possibly needed to decide the game. That said though, the match though was never far away from unruly challenges though as in the thirty-second minute there would be another booking for Wales when Andy Savage and David Beckham would come crashing together in which at first no one seemed to be at fault, but Savage had a mad moment of red mist as grabbed the Englishman by the shirt and looked set to rip it off. He did calm down though, but his frustration wasn't hard for anyone to understand for Wales trying to get something in this game.


Neville playing Wales, 1998

England would spur on with a brilliant chance in the thirty-seventh minute when Paul Gascoigne set up a cross towards Alan Shearer, who in turn by this point been having a rather quiet game for the most part, sprinted forward with the ball and many English supporters rose up from their seats all thinking that the long awaited goal was finally to arrive. He fires it but thanks to great reflex skills from Wales goalkeeper Paul Jones, he would go the right way and knock the ball away from goal and give his countrymen a much needed let off. That would be last big chance of the first half as the referee would soon blow for half time and the two teams would go into their respective dressing rooms with the game still at deadlock, England must've felt that they should've been ahead in this half while Wales would feel very pleased of keeping it level and the hopes of keeping it level and the chance to get one over the English in the second half...

It was fair to say that upon review of the game by most pundits, the game had been a rather disappointing affair that other than several attempts on target, it had been a game in which neither side were more interesting in not losing than winning and many will all say that would often lead to dreadful games of football and in this case, many expected better for the second half. However, many who had been hoping for that were all to be left disappointed for that the second half proved to be a more nervy affair than the first with neither side willing to go out on the attack and this did lead to the excitement in that first being somewhat sapped out with many wondering if this game might go to extra time or penalties even. Shearer would try his luck again, this time from a corner in the fifty-fourth minute which he headed onto goal though just went over the bar and yet again another chance for England went passing by.

Wales' first major chance of the second half would come about in the sixty-sixth minute when Ryan Giggs attempted to go alone on the left English flank to try and cross the ball into goal, but instead his shot was easily saved by the hands of David Seaman. The game itself seem to both ignite and fizzle out at many random parts making it hard to tell how the game was going to end up but by the final twenty minutes in which pretty much nothing had really happened, it was clear that this wasn't going to be a goal frenzy like what many would've hoped for and most would've been happy for just a single goal to decide the game. If this was how the final battle of Britain clash of the century and millennium was going to turn out then it was a whimper of an encounter to end on.


John Toshack during the second half giving out orders for the team

Pretty much nobody liked the game that was on show. Those at home would more more than likely turned of their television sets at just how poor of a game it was which may seem crazy given that this was a World Cup game but that it really did say a lot about the game, worse for the thousands of supporters in the ground who had paid a lot of money for tickets and travelled hundreds of miles to get to Lyon would have not only been thinking about a refund but more so of why they evened bother to turn up. The only one though who actually seemed to like what he was seeing was Welsh manager John Toshack for that he knew that even though he had several talented players playing their trade in the Premier League, it was tiny compared to the star power and major talent in the England team so the fact that they had managed against all the odds to keep England quiet by this point. All they had to do was to take this game into extra-time and plan for the next stage of the plan to win this game.

It was then in the seventy-seventh minute that England were awarded a corner and this time and many Welsh players would gather round in the box awaiting to deal with cross. It was at this moment that with a leap in just the right place at the right time, Paul Scholes would get up in the air and header downwards the ball into the back of the Welsh net to finally break the deadlock and give the Three Lions the lead and the joy was there to be seen by the English players and fans alike. For the Welsh though, it was an absolute stab in the heart of St David for them for after everything they had done to keep England at bay had all been for nothing and the fact that it had come from a set piece and not from open play was a frustrating factor to note.

Soon enough, Wales were running out of time and Toshack knew this and began shouting out orders to the team to now try and find an equaliser from somewhere out of anything and also hoping England didn't decide to add to their lead which if they did by this point then Wales' World Cup hopes would be curtains. The latter situation almost did happen though when England were awarded a free kick in the eighty-third minute and David Beckham stepped up to take it and looked set to make it 2-0 for England. Except though, that didn't quite happen. Cheers happening around the stadium but not for the England fans and instead coming from the Welsh. Paul Jones had managed to dive in the right direction and get his hands on the ball to save it and prevent more damage for Wales.


Beckham's reaction after his penalty miss

By the eighty-ninth minute and with injury time looming (three minutes worth no less) drama would happen once again when Ryan Giggs threaded the ball up towards Dean Saunders who raced into the box and a mishap in the English defence saw them open up and allowed for the red shirted striker to go for it. Sol Campbell would race in to try and stop him, but in the moment of madness of not seeing what was going on around him, he would bring Saunders down in the box and the referee had no trouble in quickly pointing to the spot...penalty for Wales! The Welsh supporters erupted with cheers almost as if they had already scored while the English fans could only look on in horror at what was starting to unfold for Wales had a chance to get a last minute goal and a chance to drag the game into extra time.

Any Englishman who had already starting popping the champagne bottles would have very much regretted celebrating too soon. Sol Campbell was shown a yellow card and as he walked away for Mark Hughes to take his place up by the spot to the penalty that could lead this game into extra-time, the poor defender was showered with a torrid of abuse from nearby fans; angry that he might blow their chances for a place in the Semi-finals. England manager Terry Venables was seen plodding his way back to the bench with the look of a man who seems like that he is about to be shot at dawn. Was it all going to end like this? To say the tension in Lyon was like something you could cut a knife through would be this World Cup's understatement as Hughes look at David Seaman, now the only one who could save his country from blowing it now.

The shrill sound of the referee's whistle is heard and Hughes makes his dash up to the ball in which he thumps it to the left of the goal and which Seaman throws himself in the correct position. Welsh fans are preparing to cheer Hughes' moment of glory, but instead the cheer inside that stadium comes from the English supporters for Seaman punches the ball away up the field towards Paul Ince who wasted no time in kicking it off the field in an attempt to waste time. It was quite incredible to see the sudden switch of emotions from both sets of supporters was quite something and the England fans, who were just seconds ago dreading what might happen next, were now goading their Welsh counterparts about their missed penalty


Mark Hughes awaits the call from the referee to take his, ultimately doomed, last minute penalty

For Beckham, he was secretly glad that he wouldn't have the infamy of missing a penalty in this game while the other penalty taker, Mark Hughes, it was a nightmare feeling for him. He was utterly distraught over his penalty miss and despite some of his teammates trying to comfort him, they didn't have enough time to do so as England went on the attack in the other direction and the stretched Welsh back line had to be called into action once more to stop another English goal taking place. Hughes knows that had he scored it, they would surely be now ready to play extra-time and who knows how things would end up then. For him and many others of his fellow countrymen, that penatly miss would go down in Welsh football history as one of the great 'what if' moments. Oh, if things had done differently...

In the end, Wales were really sapped following that moment and really couldn't muster any sort of challenge while England themselves didn't need to do much themselves for they knew that they had surely won the game and before long, the whistle for full time blew and England had like in the Croatian game before, made heavy work of it. Nonetheless though, England were back in the World Cup semi finals once again and many of their supporters celebrated with the chanting of the song 'Three Lions' being sung around the stadium. It didn't matter that in the truth the game had been an utter slugfest that no one would be wanting to watch back on VHS tapes anytime soon, winning was all that matter any them.

The same could not be said about those Welsh players on the field, all of which bore looks of despair, confusion and some even of bitterness as to what could've been if Hughes had tucked that penalty away. That all being said despite in this great rivalry, the one nice thing about in the aftermath of the game was with Giggs and Beckham swapping shirts with each other and bringing back their club level camaraderie with some small chat being exchange on what they were going to do when they returned back to Manchester for the following season. Little did they, their Manchester United teammates and perhaps everyone else know then that they'd all be part of something special the following year with Manchester United but in itself is another story...


England players celebrate their victory over Wales led by Paul Ince, who incidentally would become England's first black captain during this match

As the sad, weary and disappointed Welsh supporters left the exits with their tattered Red Dragon flags and headed for home, the English supporters stayed back to celebrate with their heroes who had now led them to a mouth watering clash with hosts France in the Semi Finals in four days time over in Saint-Denis and a few more cynical English minded supporters knew that England would have to do better against the hosts if they were to make it to another final if tonight's performance with Wales was anything to go by which in truth was rather lucky. But for now though, it was time to celebrate as now there was only one British team left standing in France...

And there we are, England in the last four! A few changes made to this compared to the old TL such as not only fixes but also being padded out more with some extra details. Anyway I know I mentioned the update would come sooner than later but lets say there have been some changes made for I'll be aware of holiday next week so there will be no Wednesday update then but you will see another update (hopefully) later this week. Speaking of which, here is the fixture list for the last four:
Brazil vs Netherlands

France vs England
You know what to do, until then though ,catch you all later for the next update of France '98...see you soon!