Sunday, March 25, 2007

Scotland's greatest team - Ebren

On November 30th, 1872, Scotland took part in the first ever international football match.

In the 135 years since that 0-0 draw they have played 665 games, won 316 and scored 370 more goals than they have let in.

But what was the greatest team of all?

Souness, Strachan, Dalgleish, and Hansen? Baxter, Bremner, Johnstone and Law?


According to Fifa, the greatest team to represent the tartan army reads: Gordon, Neilson, Alexander, Pressley, Weir, Ferguson, Fletcher, Caldwell, Miller, Hartley, and McFadden.

It doesn't matter that this team lost 2-0 to Ukraine. These were the last people to pull on the royal blue shirts and lion rampant crest before the latest Fifa rankings were released on Wednesday.

These placed Scotland 16th in the world, up from 62nd the same time last year, the team's highest-ever placing.

This leads to two questions: Firstly how long have the Fifa rankings been going, and secondly why should we respect the opinion of an international body who's head thinks the best way to improve women's football is tighter shorts?

The straight answer is 1993 and yes, yes we should.

The much-derided system of the before the World Cup, which saw the Czech Republic and the USA in the top five and Germany in 19th, has been heavily revised.

Points are allocated based on the result of the international match, the importance of the game (i.e. is it World Cup final or a mid-season friendly), the strength of the opposition, and the region (i.e. a good South American team ranks higher than a good Concacaf side), and added up over four years.

Fifa's ranking system now places Argentina, Italy, Brazil, France, and Germany top of the pile. Something not many of us would argue with.

So what are the results that have made Fletcher's side the very best since Goram, Gough, Levein and McCoist lost 5-0 to Portugal.

In the four years that have contributed to Fifa's current rankings Scotland have drawn with Italy and Germany in competitive matches, with Spain in a friendly and beaten Holland.

In the last nine months Scotland have won three games and lost just one. They have beaten the World Cup finalists, and sit top of a group that includes the world champions and another of the teams that made the quarter-finals in Germany.

Couple that with big wins against World Cup finals regulars Bulgaria and Slovenia, in the last 18 months and you start to think Scotland deserve their place above Uruguay, Denmark, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

So does this make the current team better than the Bremner side that drew with Pele's Brazil and Beckenbauer's Germany and beat Moore's England at Wembley and Eusebio's Portugal? Maybe not.

But next chance you can head to Hamden Park, perhaps in 40 years you will be able to say you saw McFadden play Cannavaro and Scotland crowned World Champions for the first time since 1967.


MotM said...

Love the last line.

Are we entering a time in which there will be a top layer of international teams (probably as there always has been and identified above), followed by the nearly teams (England, Portugal, Spain, Sweden etc) then a whole mass of nations from 11 - 50 in the rankings whose fortunes will fluctuate with the appointment of coaches, player avaliability etc?

Scotland, Nigeria, Norway, USA, Australia, Mexico, Uruguay, Japan might all fit into this bracket. Frankly if you told me any of those teams were 12th or 42nd, I wouldn't be surprised.

andrewm said...

Interesting stuff Ebren, but I can't agree we're better than the teams you say we might deserve to be placed above. I would expect any of them to beat us two times out of three.

andrewm said...

On second thoughts, you're not necessarily saying that are you?

Never mind.

bluedaddy said...

Shoddy work Ebren. Scotland's match versus Italy next week is the actual world champions (Italy) versus the CURRENT Unofficial World Champions, Scotland, who took the title from Georgia on Saturday.
Scotland are currently top of the UFWC all time rankings too.

Also, I'm gonna overlook Hamden as a typo, but see it doesnt happen again!

bluedaddy said...

BTW. In case you are wondering what the fuck I am on about:

marcela said...

bluedaddy - i was wondering what the fuck you're on about and the link leads to 'service unavailable' page.
so still wondering...

bluedaddy said...

Howdee Marcela,

Google this: unofficial world champions

marcela said...

ha, ha. very good.
the first entry google spits out is still unavailable but there is a wikipedia explanation:

nice one.

bluedaddy said...

Marcela, Is Paul Brown, who helped devise the UFWC, someone you have ever come across before? He seems to be very much working a similar furrow to your good self.

Here is a URL for his website:

pipita said...


I agree FIFA's ranking system is totally pointless. Here's my all-time Scotland eleven,

Harvey;Hay,Buchan,Hansen,Macgrain; Souness,Bremner,Gemmill, Strachan;
Law, Dalglish

bluedaddy said...

That's not a bad pick Pipita. I think Billy McNeill and Willie Miller might pip Buchan, with the scrapper Miller a better match to the ball playing Hansen. Jimmy Johnstone would easily outrank Strachan or Gemmill, neither of whom are that necessary with Souness running the midfield. Only the current goalie Craig Gordon would have a sniff of making the all time eleven from the current squad.

bluedaddy said...

Though Souness would of course have to ask Bremner's permission first.

pipita said...


Never saw much of either Mcneil nor willie miller must confess. Johnstone was a truly great tricky winger but only played for Celtic and never in a World Cup. The goalie is the really tough there. Also left out Mcqueen who was a very good centre half

andrewm said...

BD, Pipita, interesting choices.

From the little I've seen of him I wouldn't want to leave Johnstone out.

MotM said...

I posted this and it may not be Ebren's final draft, so forgive the Hampden typo as my hasty posting! Felt it was important in all the doom and gloom about England to celebrate our Northern brothers.

Pipita - Hansen never really delivered in a Scotland shirt, so I'd have Miller and MacNeill as the centre-back pair. I'd keep that midfield and have Jinky as a sub for the last twenty along with Joe Jordan.

All-Time XIs elaborated by the reasons from our far flung contributors would make a good intermittent series here.

I'd take this bunch of Scots to beat any nation's All-Time XI outside Brazil, France, Germany, Argentina, Holland and Italy. That would make them quarter-finalists in the all-time World Cup - not bad for a nation of, what, 5 million?

andrewm said...

Mouth, interesting.

I believe an all-time Scotland XI, coached by Shanks or Jock Stein at their peak, would beat an all-time England XI.

The sad thing is, we really have had some great line-ups and should have at least made the semi-finals of the World Cup at some point.

MotM said...

Andrewm - Or Ferguson.

I missed Hungary out of my list which would make it a full 8. In consequence, yes, I think the best 11 Scots would beat the best 11 English, although resources might be stretched by the 5 subs.

Where's miro? He'd put us right.

Scots seem to have not got the results their skills deserved in many fields of endeavour (excepting those minor ones of science / engineering and warfare, I suppose).

andrewm said...

Ah, but Mouth Ferguson did f'all for us in '86. Kenny and Hansen knew he hated them and he didn't try to hide it. His ego is too great to deal with players he hasn't personally signed.

kokomo said...

rob jones

would beat a scotland eleven, though it would be a great game!

england would have a decent bench too.

we are struggling for a coach though - ramsey succeeded and failed with equal aplomb, and only venables and robson have briefly sparkled since.

So, that team, coached by Brian Clough, would be awesome.

pipita said...


Hey lads were forgetting jim baxter here. I never saw him play but apparently he was superb.Jordan I almost included, taking into account the fact that he scored in three different world cups...

Ebren said...

Hi guys, I went through more or less all scotland's post war sides - and the current team isn't close. Also, they beat Argentina in 90, but I wasn't counting frindlies.

The point was it could be the first time they have beaten the exsting world champions in a competitive game since 67 - although they did score one more than Brazil in 98 ;o)

Jinky vs Matthews would be something I would pay a lot to watch.

There's a queue forming behind me for scotland's internet connection, so I will leave you to it,



guitougoal said...

I really like Scotland's chances to qualify for the next
e.c. . Fergusson's team is solid and believes in its chances too. A draw against Italy could be the ticket, good luck for wednesday.

fred said...

Of course any team that boasts both "Pirlo" Fletcher and Elvis' long-lost
cousin must be world-best!
Yes, Jim Baxter was great! They reckon Duncan Edwards wasn't bad either...


miro said...


There are two certainties:

1. FIFA Ranking list is a pervert joke;
2. No one of the current Scotland internationals would be nowhere near the best ever Scottish team.

bluedaddy said...

Miro. Craig Gordon needs to face stiffer tests to reach a true verdict, but may well become Scotland's best ever goalie (yeah I know, world's tallest midget etc).

Worryingly for Craig, Wenger likes him.

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