How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

By Andrew Playle All Rights Reserved ©

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Chapter 15

Scotland’s first game was against Croatia on the Saturday afternoon and the whole country had virtually shut down to watch Bradley and his team mates start their march to, hopefully, a better result than the last World Cup. A lot of pundits were predicting that this could be Scotland’s greatest hour, even English pundits who had thrown scorn on Scotland’s chances in any tournament previously.

Pubs in Scotland with a TV were filled to bursting as the game got under way. One supporter decided to avoid watching it in a crowded pub though. McNair was huddled up in his house watching it there with his Scotland shirt on. The same one he wore when they were rubbish and he played for them years ago. He was keeping a low profile from now on until he could get his house sold and get out of the country.

When the score reached 5-0 to Scotland with twenty minutes left, the whole country was partying like they had already won the cup. Bradley was playing out of his skin, scoring three of their goals and generally being a nuisance in the Croatian box, dodging tackles and setting up chance after chance for the boys in dark blue.

The game ended 6-0 and the TV pundits were drooling at what they had seen. Suddenly, everybody in the media wanted a piece of this amazing twenty-two year old sensation who was surely going to win the cup on his own, which was a bit unfair, as the rest of the Scotland team were not much older than him and were all an improvement on previous Scottish players except for the likes of Dalgleish and company. Most of them played in the English or French premier leagues, so they had experience at a high level. Higher than their predecessors who ended up plying their trade in the English League One or a second division Dutch team.

The remaining group games were equally as exciting, running out winners against Norway 3-0 and the fancied Belgians 2-0. After dispatching Iceland in the first knockout round 4-0, their quarter final opponents would be against Bradley’s former manager and friend, Luigi Cantonelli and his Italian side that had been transformed since he took over.

After a tense and interesting game, Scotland overcame Italy 2-1 in extra time and Bradley made a point of going over to Luigi Cantonelli for a conversation and much hugging.

The extra time win against Italy had taking a lot out of the Scotland team, physically and mentally. They had been tough opponents and now they had a few days for the manager, Jimmy Anderson to get them back in shape ready for the semi-final against France.

Once again, Scotland closed down as almost the entire population wanted to watch their heroes go one step further. McNair continued to watch the games from the safety of his lounge, Brian set his alarm so he could be up in time to watch his son perform and even Martine was interested enough to watch with Carlos in her new apartment. Sam would go down to his local pub and watch it incognito. Nobody knew who he was there and it pleased him when he heard his little brother’s name being praised every time he touched the ball.

McNair had been doing extremely well with his football predictions and by the time the semis came around he was over £30,000 in profit. All the more money he could use to buy his place in Spain when the sale of his house went through, which should be any day now.

Barry and Sheila Tennant had flown out to Barcelona to stay with Jessie while the tournament was on. He had found himself going out in his taxi less and less nowadays; he had been bitten by the holiday bug and thanks to Bradley’s generosity he didn’t have to ply his trade for ten hours every day just to make a living. They would stay until Bradley returned after the tournament then head home to plan their next visit.

Most experts predicted a tight game with France. They had improved greatly since the Brazil World Cup and they had a good chance against Scotland. Jimmy Anderson had other ideas and highlighted a couple of areas where Scotland could open them up.

The game plan worked a treat as a shocked French team fell 2-0 to Scotland igniting yet another media circus about Bradley and his team mates, although now other players were getting their fair share of fame and rightly so. Bradley had scored a total of nine goals so far, including the one against France in the eightieth minute that killed any chance of a France comeback. He was already on target to be awarded Player of the Tournament and the Golden Boot for the top scorer, and now all that lie in the way of Scotland achieving worldwide glory was one more game. Against the hosts, Germany.

Since their disappointing opening game against Slovenia, Germany had been unstoppable beating all their opponents along the way including England and Spain, much to Carlos’ annoyance.

The stage was set for the final game of the 2020 European Championship. Scotland versus Germany. David versus Goliath. Nerves were running high in the Scotland dressing room as they remembered how bad they felt after losing to Brazil in the last World Cup. Most of these players had played in that game and the wounds ran deep. They wanted to make amends badly. There was no way they were going to lose to the most successful European nation in football.

Whether Germany had underestimated Scotland, or they had assumed that in front of their home crowd there would be no chance of an upset, they will never know. But when Scotland went at them straight from the kick off, they panicked which was very un-German.

Once Bradley was brought down in the box after fifteen minutes, the crowd went spookily quiet. It had to be a penalty, they thought. But the referee had other ideas and waved play on, much to the disgust of the Scottish team and those supporters who had made the journey to Berlin. There were cries of ‘Fix’ ringing out as the game carried on with the Scottish team even more determined to make them pay.

Ten minutes later, Bradley rounded two defenders and let loose an unstoppable shot that gave the German keeper no chance. 1-0 Scotland!!

By now, Germany were confused and as hard as they tried to settle down and take control of the game, Scotland wouldn’t let them and continued to dominate. After hitting the post twice, Bradley claimed his second goal of the game with a tap-in from three yards which sent the Scottish supporters into rapture and the German fans into a quiet submission. They were getting a lesson in football and they couldn’t see any way of turning it around.

With the second half starting at 2-0 to Scotland, Germany started to play some better football and pulled a goal back in the seventy-third minute. Seventeen minutes to hold on; could Scotland do it, or would Germany revert to type and grind them down?

The game became tighter with Germany having the ball cleared off the Scotland goal line by one of their defenders once and another great chance being saved by the Scottish keeper, Sean Morrison.

Three minutes to go and Scotland win a corner. Bradley placed the ball perfectly into the German area where a confusing mass of bodies all vied for it. It could have gone anywhere, but it landed on the head of their centre forward, Scott McEwen who steered it into the back of the net. 3-1 Scotland!! GAME OVER!! SCOTLAND ARE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS!!

The German players were on their knees. They couldn’t believe what had happened, neither could the crowd as Scottish fans sang and danced in the stands with tears in their eyes. There would be one Hell of a party that night!

Jimmy Anderson and his coaches ran on to the pitch to congratulate their heroes. They danced a lap or two of honour around the stadium enjoying their moment of glory with their loyal supporters who had followed their country around the world, normally to watch an ignominious defeat against some tiny nation. Now, they had their reward. Nobody could take that away from them.

Back home, the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow were awash with fans, including McNair who had ventured out after the game to celebrate. He didn’t care if Ludo and Marek were out there watching him, he wasn’t going to miss this moment as it might never happen again in his lifetime. Besides, he had correctly bet that Scotland would win 3-1 at very generous odds of 16/1 and with £500 wagered on it, he was now £8,000 better off which would pay for the gold bathroom fittings in his new home.

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