James McFadden: France v Scotland 2007
My favourite goal from Robin Bairner.
Paris, the City of Lights, the world capital of romance, for one day in early September 2007 became more about beer and Buckfast under the Eiffel Tower.
I travelled as a fan as swarms of Scots took over the French capital, holding onto the dream that this team might be the one to end what was, at that point, only a decade-long absence from major international competition.
We walked en masse alongside the Seine, forming our own river of blue and white of saltires interspersed the gold and red of the Lion Rampant, daring to dream of the impossible as only a football supporter can do. Scotland had already upset France at Hampden thanks to a scruffy Gary Caldwell goal; it couldn’t possibly happen again in their own backyard with so much on the line.
Only, it did.
I remember that evening as a series of images and short clips, like scrolling through the gallery of a mobile phone.
With the endless French attacks breaking tamely on the Scotland defence, there was a long punt forward to James McFadden. He was completely alone, as if playing solo against the whole French defence, yet turned confidently, took a couple of strides and from what seemed an impossible distance – it seemed like he was virtually in the centre circle at the time – fired goalwards.
We were sitting in the ‘home’ end - though the reality was the stadium was at least half full of Scots - and were directly behind Mickael Landreau’s goal McFadden’s shot accelerated towards the net.
We watched as the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper got a palm to the ball, deviating it from its course. From our vantage point, there seemed to be a series of ricochets, then a heartbeat of a pause that seemed to last hours, before it was evident the ball had ended up in the back of the net.
‘Pick it out, Landreau!’ – though of course we wouldn’t hear Peter Martin’s famous commentary until days later.
In the stands, pandemonium. Bodies everywhere. I remember dancing around with a kid on my shoulders and his dad watching on, drunk on a strange cocktail of disbelief and euphoria.
I can’t remember much about the last 26 minutes other than the terrifying feeling that maybe this was our night.
After the game, the streets were lined with France supporters who applauded us as we made our way, high on football, back to the city centre. The pubs may well have been awash with Scotland fans, but I wouldn’t know: I was emotionally drained and collapsed on my bed, sleeping immediately.
McFadden’s goal was a rare moment since World Cup 98 that allowed Scotland fans to dream. He produced many moments of brilliance in his career for the national team, but that is the goal that will be most widely and most fondly remembered.
Frame not included.
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