'You could easily lose yourself in the fantasy of that moment'
12 June 2014|Tottenham Hotspur
Colin Calderwood knows exactly what it's like to step out for the opening match of the World Cup.
As Brazil countdown to kick-off against Croatia tonight, the memories stir for the defender who made 199 appearances for us between 1993-1999 and lined-up for Scotland against Brazil, the reigning champions, for the curtain-raiser of France '98 in front of 80,000 fans at the Stade de France and a worldwide audience of millions.
Brazil listed some of their modern-day greats - Taffarel, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Dunga, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Bebato in the starting line-up, Leonardo and Denilson came off the bench - but Scotland pushed the eventual-finalists all the way.
Fielding the likes of Jim Leighton, Colin Hendry, a midfield including Paul Lambert, John Collins and Craig Burley plus ex-Spur Gordon Durie alongside Kevin Gallacher up front, the Scots recovered from an early goal to level via Collins' penalty and were only beaten by a late own goal when Tom Boyd turned into his own net on 73 minutes.
For Colin, it was a day he'll never forget.
"You are certainly aware that the eyes of the world are upon you," he reflected this week.
"The fact that it was against Brazil really added weight to the game. Brazil in the opener at the World Cup - even now people ask me about the biggest game I played in and that was certainly the most high profile.
"You have all the nerves and excitement packed into one.
"We trained in the stadium the day before and the magnitude of it all grows and grows - the night before was as nerve wracking and sleepless as I'd been before any game I’d ever played in.
"On the day of the game, you kick into as much of a routine as you can.
"It was very emotional, especially when the national anthem was played.
"My thoughts at that moment were on my family and friends in the crowd and a lot of people back home in Stranraer, a small town back in Scotland and the people watching the game there on TV. I’d come from there and with 21 other players, was on the pitch ready for the opening game of the World Cup.
"I remembered a couple of moments playing school football as a kid and there I was. You could easily lose yourself in the fantasy of that moment."
The manner of the defeat still sticks with Colin.
"We were strong throughout the qualifying campaign defensively and we lost a goal to a header from a corner inside five minutes, not exactly how you’d expect to concede against Brazil!
"But we got through the next 10 minutes, gradually got a foothold in the game through John Collins especially and the running power of Gordon Durie and Kevin Gallacher up front, they gave their defenders some trouble.
"Eventually, from Kevin Gallacher chasing down a pass, we got a penalty and got back to 1-1.
"We felt at that point that we were in the game, we were taking part.
"When you go 1-0 down against Brazil, I imagine most people think ‘game over’ but certainly the penalty gave us belief and encouragement. We played well and it looked like it might just be a draw and that would have been terrific for us.
"But then we conceded a ricochet own goal, so we’d been beaten by Brazil with a header from a corner and an own goal. It dribbled over the line as well. It was quicker in the replay than in real time!
"We had some good players, Paul Lambert and John Collins had played Champions League finals and semi-finals with Borussia Dortmund and Monaco. We were without Gary McAllister as well.
"The level of players in the centre of midfield was there and we were a good unit, looking back, we could compete against most teams.
"Brazil won it in 1994 and went on to be runners-up in France. It always brings back fantastic memories, especially as Brazil are opening the tournament again.
"It’s a nerve-wracking moment, I must admit. I remember thinking ‘get through 15 minutes and be in the game, don’t do anything daft’.
"We just wanted to get an early touch and get on with the game. Once the whistle goes, you click into the game – if you don’t, it will bypass you. Although we got beaten, I’ve great memories of the day."