FOOTBALL: WHAT A LOAD OF KIWI-WEE It just keeps getting worse for Berti's boys; SCOTLAND 1 NEW ZEALAND 1.
SCOTLAND 1 NEW ZEALAND 1 GERMANY would have slept easy last night.
Their spies saw nothing to scare them as Scotland struggled to subdue a stubborn but hardly gifted New Zealand side at Tynecastle in front of only 10,016 fans, many of them small people too young to be members of the Tartan Army.
Their shrill voices made this warm-up for the big one against Germany a week on Saturday seem like a school game, bu so too, did, some of Berti Vogts' players.
Fair enough, with Paul Lambert, Barry Fergsuon, Colin Cameron and Kenny Miller among the missing it wasn't the manager's best or strongest side, but then again the Kiwi manager, Mick Waitt, had to plunder strange and exotic sounding teams for his players.
He drew from Football Kingz, Ruch Chorzow, LA Galaxy, Columbus Crew and others, but his players didn't let him down.
Can the same be said of those Vogts sent out to wear the dark blue of Scotland? They were denied a winning goal towards the end by some cruel misfortune as the Kiwis slithered and slid at the back, but this was hardly vintage and merely confirmed our position in this business.
Scotland beat New Zealand 5-2 in the World Cup back in 1982, way before many of the frans inside Hearts' ground were even born, but today we are ranked 13 places lower than the Kiwis in FIFA's food chain.
Can it get any worse? 'Fraid so because we now have to play Germany in that crucial Euro 2004 qualifying match at Hampden and there is still little sign of intelligent life about our lot.
When we come up against modest, but organised sides we lack the creativity to cope and even though James McFadden was on from the start it was late in the night before he caused real problems. Hopefully he has done enough to convince Vogts to persevere with him because he does have a spark which we need.
Stevie Crawford had given Scotland an early lead, but it was one which we couldn't build upon and Ryan Nelsen stole in just after the interval to equalise giving New Zealand a promising start to their five-game world tour while Scotland gave the impression they still don't really know where they are going.
Vogts went for four at the back, although it was flexible in that Maurice Ross, operating on the right, was always trying to get forward with Gary Naysmith looking to do the same on the left.
In between this pair Hearts team-mates Steven Pressley and Andy Webster were charged with the responsibility of keeping the tall Vaughan Coveny subdued and in the early minutes New Zealand didn't offer much of a threat while the Scots were pushing forward, probing and searching for ways through towards Michael Utting in goal.
They found one in 11 minutes when Ross bamboozled Gerard Davis in midfield and eventually won a corner on Scotland's right.
McFadden took charge and curled an enticing delivery into the middle where Crawford was waiting to use his head and give his side the lead.
The sparse crowd rose to acclaim the hero of the moment and the high- pitched noise generated almost managed to make its way up and over the stadium roof, but didn't quite make it and the old ladies scuttling along Gorgie Road towards the bingo probably didn't hear a thing.
David Mulligan was booked after he had clattered into Naysmith as he tried to steal forward wide on the left and a little later Webster had to climb high to nod the ball away under pressure from Noah Hickey.
Just after that Pressley was forced to raise a gallop to prevent Coveny from getting to a fine through pass, but in 20 minutes the Hearts captain had to resort to foul means to check the big striker's movement.
A minute later Christian Dailly was cautioned after he had tripped Chris Jackson, but the Scotland captain really ought to have been kicking the backside of McFadden because it was he who had lost possession trying to beat Chris Zoricich not once but twice. Dailly recovered quickly, however, and his header from Ross's cross skipped only a couple of feet wide.
Utting had to get down smartly to save Crawford's shot with his feet after Paul Devlin's low delivery was dummied by Kevin Kyle, but the Scots didn't back off, winning another corner on their right.
This time there was no killer touch on McFadden's cross, but the Scots at least should have tested Utting again in 30 minutes when Kyle had loped into a dangerous position inside the box only to see Ross's poor pass easily cut out.
For the next few minutes the Kiwis made good ground down their left with first Davis and then Hickey causing problems, but the Scots got the game flowing their way again and Devlin's cross was met powerfully by Kyle whose header was knocked behind by Nelsen. New Zealand didn't clear the corner properly but the threat subsided when Dailly barged into Simon Elliott and gave away a foul.
Minutes later Devlin danced around Davis and the low cross caused panic just in front of Utting's goal, but he slapped the ball away and then Zoricich rumbled forward only to send a long-range shot high and wide.
Ross gave away possession allowing Davis to sprint clear and after he had cut inside he wasted the break by curling his shot well wide of Rab Douglas's goal.
Vogts made a change during the break replacing Ross with Graham Alexander and only a minute into the second half the Rangers player was probably glad he had been kept indoors.
Webster hauled Coveny down and was booked, but much worse was about to befall the Scots, who filed back to defend their keeper against the free- kick taken by Elliott.
His curled cross dropped into no man's land between Scotland's defenders and Douglas allowing Nelsen to dart into the space, stick out a leg and poke the ball into the net.
Vogts could barely believe what had just happened but the Kiwis were level and growing in confidence as Scotland's play becamed even scrappier.
Perhaps sensing they could cause further damage New Zealand, who had already changed keepers with Jason Batty taking over from Utting and Duncan Oughton replacing Mulligan, took off Chris Jackson and sent on Raf de Gregorio.
Pressley almost gifted the visitors a second goal. He stumbled and Mark Burton was off and sprinting towards Douglas, but the big keeper dropped quickly and managed to save the shot and Pressley's credibility.
The night was not working out to plan at all and Kyle was taken off so that Andy Gray could have a go up front, but there was nothing cultured or intricate about anything Scotland were doing and Vogts was becoming increasingly aggitated.
McFadden and Oughton squared up to one another behind the referee's back and the fourth official, Stuart Dougal, had to tell them to calm down, advice Devlin could have been done with because he belted into Hickey and was booked.
It was probably typical of Scotland's struggle that Douglas should be the one to produce the second half's first genuine piece of imaginative play by throwing the ball from his area all the way into the other half of the pitch and right into the path of McFadden, who got to the edge of the box before trying to set Gray up.
Unfortunately the pass was knocked for a corner which came to nothing because Devlin smacked his shot about 20 feet over the bar.
Five minutes from the end McFadden released Naysmith and his deep cross from the left to the far post was met by Crawford whose header seemed to hit a defender.
The Scots claimed a penalty but the referee ignored them and that was about it really.
Just a little later it was over and although the many kids in the crowd probably enjoyed staying up late it was a relief to see this one over and done with.
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||May 28, 2003|
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