How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 44

The day of the final had arrived at last. Nerves were building up in the Scottish camp but Jimmy Anderson was doing his best to calm them down and take the pressure off them. He stressed that they weren’t expected to beat Brazil so there was no pressure on them to win. If they lost, they would learn a lot about how to do it better next time, because there would be a next time and being as they were all young enough to play in the next three, maybe four World Cups then they shouldn’t be doing anything other than enjoying the day.

In the Brazil dressing room, the mood was not one filled with nervousness, but apprehension. The players knew very little about Scotland other than what they had seen on TV. They looked well organised and cohesive, but they were young and experience should win out every time, right? Their manager was winding up his players and telling them that this would be the biggest margin of victory the tournament has seen since Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in 1970 when they were regarded as the best team in the history of football. He told them to play fancy football to mesmerise the young Scottish lads, and to go easy on them. The neutrals were already behind Scotland so don’t make it worse by going in heavy on their players. The world loved Brazilian football, let’s keep it that way, he stressed.

Kick off time approached and the two teams lined up in the tunnel of the Coliseum. Bradley looked across at his counterparts in the famous yellow and blue and couldn’t help but admire some of their players. However, he was determined to overshadow them today, as was his team, most of which were complete unknowns up until this week. Now, the whole world knew all about every one of the lads and he knew they were behind them.

After the formalities, Brazil kicked off in the heat of Los Angeles. Brian and Lucy had indeed got great seats; right on the half way line half way up the vast stadium that was normally used for College Football.

The first fifteen minutes were played at a slow pace as both sides got used to the pitch and settled into a tempo. As expected, Brazil were content to pass the ball around making Scotland chase after them and wear themselves out for the second half when Brazil would go in for the kill. Make the ball do the work was a mantra they were well used to. When their first attempt on goal brought out a superb save from Morrison in the Scottish goal, it lifted them. Gradually, Scotland eased themselves into the game with some neat passing of their own. Suddenly, Bradley found himself with the ball some 30 yards from goal with two defenders in front of him. This was his chance for glory, he thought as he quickly decided what he was going to do.

He cleverly dummied the first defender and caused the other one to slip over as he tried to change his direction. It was now or never. Bradley knew where to place the ball and smacked it hard into the bottom left corner out of reach of the Brazilian keeper. 1-0 Scotland!!!

The crowd reacted with disbelief and amazement as Bradley’s team mates rushed over to congratulate him. The Brazilians just looked accusingly at each other and shouted. Their manager was apoplectic with rage; he couldn’t believe they had made such a stupid mistake.

Brian couldn’t contain himself and jumped up cheering as the ball hit the net. He had no regrets at all about spending all that money on getting there to see this. Worth every penny. Lucy cheered politely and hugged Brian who had tears of joy streaming down his cheeks. She didn’t really understand football, but she could see the emotions that came with the game.

At half time the score was still 1-0 to Scotland. Jimmy Anderson joked to the team as they filtered down the players’ tunnel to the dressing room. The mood amongst the players was good. They were 45 minutes away from making history.

Brazil tore into Scotland right from the whistle to start the second half. Although Scotland kicked off, Brazil had dispossessed them almost immediately and put them under pressure. Sean Morrison, the Scotland keeper, was on his best form and he needed to be as he tipped one shot over the bar and caught two other shots from the hungry Brazilians. Inevitably, Brazil’s relentless pressure gave them a goal in the 58th minute to make it 1-1. This was to be a crucial time in the game. Scotland would either collapse and allow Brazil another couple of goals or they would rally round and repeat what they had done in the first half.

With 85 minutes on the clock and Scotland getting more and more tired, Brazil launched another attack on the Scotland goal with a 20 yard shot hitting the crossbar. It was surely a matter of time before Brazil got the winner, and sure enough, less than a minute later Juninho weaved his way past the tired Scottish defence to slot the ball home. 2-1 to Brazil! That goal had to seal the result although Scotland weren’t giving up lightly. From the restart, Bradley ran at the Brazilian defence once more only to be knocked over by their right back. A free kick 25 yards from goal in the dying minutes. Was the fairy tale about to come true?

Bradley calmed down and lined up the kick. He tried to convince himself that it didn’t matter if it didn’t go in, they were still heroes, but he couldn’t. He had to score. Sadly, his free kick, although perfect, was met by the Brazilian keeper who tipped it over the bar. Bradley rushed to the corner flag to take the ensuing corner with every Scotland player in the box, including Morrison the goalie. He lofted the ball in which was headed away by a defender straight to the feet of his team mate who was content to run the clock down as Morrison sprinted back to his goal.

The referee had seen enough and blew his whistle to call an end to the game. The Scotland players fell to the pitch with exhaustion and hurt as the realisation hit them that they had lost the World Cup final. Bradley went to each player and consoled them, even though he was totally distraught. Brazil were congratulating each other and applauding their supporters at the far end of the stadium. The Scotland supporters at the other end were singing and cheering their heroes like never before. It had been a long journey and for it to end this way was totally crushing. It might take the boys a while to get over this, but with this level of support, they knew they would do better next time.

After a few minutes, Bradley noticed the Brazil team coming towards them. They weren’t gloating or anything, they just came over to say well done to the young Scots lads who had done their country proud. Both teams shook hands, hugged and slapped each other on the back in an act of sportsmanship lacking when Scotland had played Argentina. They genuinely appreciated Scotland’s efforts and admitted that they could have won it on another day.

Friendships were made and Scotland applauded the victorious Brazil team as they collected their medals and lifted the World Cup into the air in front of the cheering fans. In a surprise move, Brazil’s captain asked the Scotland team if they would join them on a lap of honour as they had deserved recognition from their fans after Scotland’s contribution to the final, and the tournament. So, together in a sea of yellow and blue, the two countries paraded past the Brazilian supporters who were indeed generous in their applause of the Scots.

It was while passing the main stand that Bradley looked up into the expensive seats and saw someone waving at him wildly. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought it was his dad. It couldn’t be, he thought, he had said he would be staying at home watching it on TV. When he saw the figure descending the rows of seats towards the pitch, he saw that it was his dad and seeing him had lifted his spirits somewhat.

He rushed to the seats to meet him as security guards tried to keep them apart.

‘Dad! What are you doing here?’ Bradley asked.

‘I couldn’t miss this game for anything. I’m so proud of you son!’ Brian replied.

Brian told him where he was staying and told him to call when everything had settled down as Bradley continued his lap of honour once more. Eventually, both teams returned to their respective dressing rooms to recover from the match. Jimmy Anderson couldn’t be more proud of his team.

‘You boys have made Scotland proud; you should all be pleased with yourselves. You’ve just taken on the best team in the world and given them a scare. You’ve also made a lot of friends out there and put Scotland on the map. I can’t tell you what that means to me, but all I know is that I’m going to ask for a fat pay rise on the back of this performance!’ Jimmy laughed as he lightened the mood in the room.

Deep down, every one of them knew it was asking a lot to win. They had enjoyed a great tournament and put in some excellent performances; they had nothing to be ashamed of and Jimmy was right; they were young. There will be other chances to go just that one step further next time.

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