Scotland started their first World Cup campaign in 16 years with a clash against the exotic Africans of Zaire. Coming off the back of a Home International triumph, the Scots were expected to challenge for a place in the second stage. However with the group containing Brazil and Yugoslavia it was imperative for Scotland to make a good start.
The problem facing Scotland was that no one knew what a good start would be. Zaire were a totally unknown quantity, the first Sub-Saharan nation to qualify for the World Cup Finals. They had won the African Nations Cup the previous January, but that was not the competition it is now. How the Scots would approach the game was likely to affect their destiny in the competition. Should they purely go for the win, or should they attack and try to boost their goal difference.
The entire nation of Great Britain was behind the Scots, as the country’s only representatives in the competition. Both ITV and BBC showed the match live. Hugh Johns and Sir Alf Ramsey were on commentary duty for ITV whilst the BBC had David Coleman and Jock Stein in the box. It’s that version that I have seen, although with a slight glitch. The match starts with John Motson’s commentary of East Germany v Australia which was taking place simultaneously. After that fades out after 10 minutes, the commentary goes silent until the 41st minute when Coleman appears.
Scotland’s line up drew heavily on the champions of England. Leeds United provided four of the team that lined up in Dortmund, with Billy Bremner captaining the side. David Harvey was in goal, with Peter Lorimer and Joe Jordan providing the attacking threat, backed up by Denis Law, who would be making his final Scotland appearance.
In a sparsely populated WestfalenStadion in Dortmund, the local were firmly behind the underdogs from central Africa, highlighted by boos and whistles which followed an early Scottish back pass. The Scots were soon on the front foot though, and showed their hand tactically, hitting Joe Jordan at every opportunity, hoping to capitalize on the striker’s aerial power. Lorimer found his club mate with an early cross, which was headed just wide.
The high balls were causing Zaire early problems, the defence looking vulnerable, particularly the goalkeeper Mwamba Kazidi who flapped pathetically at a looping ball into the box. However Scotland were not finding it easy to create clear cut opportunities, and barely threatened the Africans goal in the opening 15 minutes.
In fact it was they who carved out the first genuine goal scoring opportunity. A lovely cross field ball found Etepe Kakao inside the Scottish penalty area. The striker in his excitement wildly missed his kick as he attempted to shoot, but recovered quickly to have a second effort, fizzing a shot into the side netting at David Harvey’s near post.
Scotland continued to be the dominant side and were given a great opportunity to score when the referee, Gehard Schulenberg of West Germany, awarded them an indirect free kick inside the Zaire penalty area. As the Scots prepared to take the kick we were given the first signs of the chaotic nature of the Zairian defence, as they failed to get to grips with the rules. With Bremner and Lorimer poised over the ball, the defenders just kept running out towards the ball before the kick was taken. After 6 or 7 attempts to take, Lorimer was eventually teed up, his shot smashing into the wall of bodies between him and the goal.
Scotland though had taken full control of the game and it was only a matter of time before the goal came. David Hay was close to breaking the deadlock with a superb effort from the edge of the box which came crashing back of the post. Eventually the goal did come, and it was worth the wait.
Scotland attacked down the left hand side, with a cross coming in towards Jordan. The Leeds target man cleverly headed the ball down into the path of his club mate Lorimer on the edge of the penalty area who met it with a sweet half volley, a venomous strike which flew into the top corner of the net. It had taken 25 minutes but Scotland finally were in front.
It appeared as if the floodgates were about to open as Scotland added a second moments later. Bremner floated in a free kick from the right, which Zaire defended by all rushing forwards to play off side, ignoring the run of Jordan from deep who was left free to head goalwards from the penalty spot. It was a poor effort, straight at the Zairian goalkeeper, who in a shock at the whistle not being blown, fumbled the ball, allowing it to squirm into the net.
Just as Scotland had burst into life, so did the commentary of David Coleman on the copy of the game I watched. However the introduction of his voice saw Scotland almost capitulate as Zaire regained their composure and went close to pulling a goal back. Jim Holton made a terrible error in midfield allowing the winger to go clear. He squared the ball to an unmarked Kidumu, but with glory in his eyes, his touch deserted him allowing Harvey to come out and smother the ball. “Scotland all over the place at the back, they were torn to shreds” Coleman said.
The second half started in similar chaotic fashion for the Scots, Holton again culpable, picking up a booking for a deliberate handball in the centre circle.
Scotland were lacking a plan B, there entire attacking thought was to lump the ball forward to Jordan. When he found himself manhandled once too often by the Zaire defence, he snapped and gave his marker Mussambu Kilasu a slap. It wasn’t fully seen by any of the officials and he escaped with a talking to, but it was lucky escape and was an illustration of the frustration the Scots were beginning to feel.
Zaire were gaining the upper hand and certainly had the crowd on their side. Maku Mayanga forced Harvey into a decent save, the Leeds keeper getting down well to push a 25 yard effort past the post.
On the hour mark, with the game drifting along, there was a flicker of excitement when the floodlights failed. A five minute delay followed whilst the lights powered back up, but if anything the temporary darkness had sent the Scots to sleep. “Scottish build up play very very slow” noted Coleman before adding “Goals are important for Scotland because this group could be decided on goal difference.”
Scotland’s one shining light was the play of Peter Lorimer on the right hand side. Time and time again he took on the full back to get crosses in, and with one he found Holton unmarked in the centre of the goal. Unfortunately the hapless centre back could only make weak contact with the ball, giving Kazidi in goal a simple save.
Moments later Lorimer was at it again, another superb run taking him beyond the defence, his intelligent pull back cutting out the keeper and finding Jordan, however it was a weak scuffed effort by the striker and drifted harmlessly wide.
To try to get similar penetration down the left, Willie Ormond made his first change replacing the ineffective Kenny Dalglish with Tommy Hutchinson. Scotland immediately went close to adding a third, Denis Law doing well to move the ball out of his feet on the edge of the area to get a shot away which was superbly pushed away by the keeper.
David Harvey in the goal at the opposite end of the field had to be at his best moments later as Zaire were given an indirect free kick inside the area for high kicking by John Blackley. The shot powered through the wall, but straight at Harvey who did well to react and tip the ball over the cross bar.
That was the end of the goal mouth action as Scotland decided that they would stick with a two goal win. The last minutes were farcical as Scotland kept possession of the ball to a crescendo of boos, with Billy Bremner even doing keepy ups in his own half to wind the clock down.
The final whistle when it came was a relief, and there was much consternation in the BBC commentary box at the Scottish performance. Jock Stein in his role as summariser told Coleman “A win’s a win … but I’m very disappointed with the way they approached the second half … I’m not very happy about it.”
The result did put Scotland at the top of the group after the first round of fixtures, but with a clash against the World Champions Brazil to be followed by the crunch clash against Yugoslavia; there was a general feeling that Scotland had sold themselves short. How short would be seen in the next round of games.