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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 08:41 GMT

Wembley showdown for auld enemies

History is not on Scotland's side - but the underdogs are used to that

England vs Scotland, 17 Nov, kick-off 2000 GMT

Scotland are praying for an early goal at Wembley to reignite the play-off battle for a place in Euro 2000.

Battle of Britain
Both the long and short-term future of each countries' football ambitions are at stake in Wednesday night's showdown - not to mention the necks of their managers.

Jamie Redknapp: "If we get an early goal we should be home and dry"
The winner will join the 15 teams at next summer's lucrative and thrilling European Championships.

The loser faces a slump in their international rankings which will make qualification for the 2002 World Cup even harder, allied to a period of painful self-analysis and reconstruction.

[ image: Nov 25 1953 was the day Hungary rocked Wembley with a 6-3 win]
Nov 25 1953 was the day Hungary rocked Wembley with a 6-3 win
The Scots have a huge mountain to climb to avoid this gloomy prospect following Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park.

They must score at least three goals - a feat not achieved since 1967, when Scotland defeated the then-World Champions 3-2.

Moreover, the Scots have won by two goals on English soil only four times in history - and only once since World War II.

The Scots' last victory at Wembley was in 1981. The list goes on.

Craig Brown: "We hope to win this one"
But Scotland have their own historical talismans, if slightly less impressive.

They have not lost two matches on the trot in the six years Craig Brown has been manager.

[ image: Keegan pictured in 1981, when Scotland last won at Wembley]
Keegan pictured in 1981, when Scotland last won at Wembley
The Scots also have a tradition of pulling off fantastic against-the-odds victories against the biggest of opposition.

Who can forget Archie Gemmill's wonder strike in the 1978 World Cup which sealed a 3-1 victory over Holland?

Certainly Brown appears convinced the upset of the century can happen.

He has been snatching at any crumbs of comfort he can find to try and rally his troops; the absence of injured Martin Keown, the width of the pitch, Tony Adams' Arsenal jinx at Wembley, Scotland's track record against Germany and Brazil.

"It is a ground that affords attacking sides a number of opportunities and that gives us a bit of hope," said Brown of Wembley.

[ image: McCann is one Scottish player who could really punish England]
McCann is one Scottish player who could really punish England
But it will suit the likes of David Beckham more, who was subdued in the first leg but has vowed to make the most of the increased freedom he will be given this time.

Beckham has the ability to rip the Scots apart although Brown must surely call-up a more effectual marker than Hearts defender Paul Ritchie.

Brown was criticised for his overly cautious tactics in the first leg and has no choice but to risk all in this make-or-break match.

That could mean drafting in Rangers winger Neil McCann to play either down the left flank or behind the front two.

McCann, on the bench for the first leg to the surprise of many, is one of the few Scottish players capable of going past defenders and can also play at centre-forward.

[ image: Gallacher was ruled out after this yellow card on Saturday]
Gallacher was ruled out after this yellow card on Saturday
With Kevin Gallacher suspended, Brown's attacking options are more limited than he would have liked.

Hearts front-man Gary McSwegan is favourite to replace Gallacher alongside Billy Dodds, with the Scotland boss preferring to keep Celtic youngster Mark Burchill on the bench for a late onslaught should it be required.

Brown could opt to spring a further surprise by playing midfielder Don Hutchison up front in a three-pronged attack.

The Everton star, who has recovered from a calf strain, has played as a makeshift striker before and has the ability to finish as well as break through defences.

The Scots dominated territory and possession in Saturday's showdown but gave the 40,000-plus home contingent few chances to cheer.

[ image: Scotland's fans will be praying for an early goal]
Scotland's fans will be praying for an early goal
Their only hope is to score within the first 20 minutes and hope the pressure of playing in front of 80,000 nervous fans forces England onto the back foot.

Defensively there is little Brown can do to shore up his creaking back-four but wave the blue and white flag.

His gamble of playing injured skipper Colin Hendry in the first-leg did not pay off but who was there to replace him?

England coach Kevin Keegan: "They still know we've got a job to do"
Brown is therefore likely to persist with the still-struggling Hendry in an unchanged defensive formation.

Keegan on the other hand has several replacement options for the injured Martin Keown, although he has already indicated Gareth Southgate will get the nod.

[ image: Keegan has got to start looking for a long-term solution to England's left-sided void]
Keegan has got to start looking for a long-term solution to England's left-sided void
Other than that Keegan is likely to stick with the side that started at Hampden, his most pressing challenge being his side's almost complete lack of options on the left

Right-footed Jamie Redknapp drew the short-straw on Saturday and his average performance was fiercely defended by Keegan.

The alternatives are hardly sexy - Steve Guppy or Steve Froggatt - but they would give England a more natural shape that may hold together more readily should Scotland rock Wembley with a quick goal.

If that happens, hold onto your hats.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas reports on two brothers at loggerheads
If Scotland did produce the unthinkable Brown would surely join Rabbie Burns and William Wallace as folk heroes.

More realistically, with the knives already being sharpened, Brown's six-year reign will almost certainly come to an end if his side fail to produce the biggest upset in the fixture's history.

But if England did somehow allow Scotland to overturn their two-goal advantage it would surely leave Kevin Keegan as the marked man.

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Great border skirmishes

Generals in the firing line

A history of fierce football rivalry

Fans in court over football trouble

Scotland v England

Lambert out of play-offs

Hendry's double jeopardy

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The limitations of passion-play

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Cheers and tears for Scotland