Okay, so I couldn’t find any Scotland birthday today but there is an anniversary of this game from 8th March, 1989. Yep, only a mere 27 years ago and a month after our narrow escape in Cyprus where we won 3-2 with Richard Gough scoring the winner in the 96th minute. The Cyprus win was very important as the French had already been there and could only manage a draw.
Scotland knew if they could beat France at Hampden it would give them a three point advantage. Yugoslavia were also in the group and had already been to Hampden and achieved a 1-1 draw; so the pressure was on Scotland to win.
It had been a difficult week for the citizens of Glasgow as the Bellgrove rail crash had occurred two days before the match with two people killed. I’m sure that many fans thought of this as they travelled by train to Mount Florida that night.
Mo Johnston had started the group matches with three goals in the three games Scotland had played thus far and would make an even bigger contribution on this night. The French were going through a transition stage and there is only a few recognisable players to me in the team; Patrick Battiston, Laurent Blanc, Frank Sauzee and Jean-Pierre Papin. Others such as Eric Cantona and Didier Deschamps would play in the game in France six months later, which Scotland lost 3-0 but qualifying had already been more or less assured by then.
The Scotland team would line up as Jim Leighton (Manchester United), Richard Gough (Rangers), Maurice Malpas (Dundee United), Gary Gillespie (Liverpool), Alex McLeish (Aberdeen), Stevie Nicol (Liverpool), Paul McStay (Celtic), Roy Aitken (Celtic), Ian Ferguson (Rangers), Ally McCoist (Rangers), Mo Johnston (Nantes).
Ian Ferguson would not feature again for Scotland for another four years after this game. He came off in 56 minutes for Gordon Strachan as he was carrying an injury. Brian McClair replaced Ally McCoist in the 69th minute. However, the game had already been won by then.
Mo Johnston had scored the first in the 28th minute. A Scotland free kick had been flighted into a packed French penalty area and headed out but only as far as McCoist; Ally tried to shoot from the edge of the box but it only got as far as Mo and almost seemed to be stuck under him in the mud but he was able to turn and shoot to open the scoring.
McCoist was also involved in the second goal in the 52nd minute, chasing what seemed a lost cause and getting hold of the ball on the right wing outside the area and passing it back to an onrushing Stevie Nicol who hits a cross first time; Mo doesn’t get the cleanest strike on the header but with a wet pitch the ball squirms away from goalkeeper Bats and into the net.
The game would finish 2-0 and a win against Cyprus a month later and a draw against Norway at home was enough to see Scotland through as runners up to Yugoslavia. The French were the top seeds in the group with Scotland second, but it does show, that what you need to succeed in a qualifying group is a striker on fire and Mo certainly was for the 1990 World Cup campaign.
There was one consolation for the French as three days later the Scotland rugby team would play France at the Parc De Princes, Paris and a 19-3 victory gave the French the Five Nations title with Scotland finishing only a point behind them.
I will post some footage of the game on the Facebook page and look out for one or two hefty tackles form the French. Also, please remember to keep checking out the Facebook page as there’s always more on view than Facebook sends to you.