France v Scotland

 Posted by at 6:51 PM
Jun 042016
Snodgrass adds to the Scottish midfield options for Saturday’s friendly

BBC coverage

How to follow:
Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Scotland can call on Hull City’s Andrew Robertson, Robert Snodgrass and Shaun Maloney for Saturday’s friendly meeting with France.

The trio missed Sunday’s loss to Italy due to last weekend’s English Championship play-off final.

However, Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Barry Bannan did not join up with Gordon Strachan’s squad after finishing on the losing side at Wembley.

Ipswich defender Christophe Berra is unavailable for the match in Metz.

Steven Fletcher, who spent the second half of last season on loan to Marseille from Sunderland, is likely to lead the visitors’ attack, while goalkeeper David Marshall is in line to win his 24th cap.

Hibernian midfielder John McGinn picked up a knock prior to the 1-0 defeat to Italy in Malta and will probably not be risked.

Allan McGregor, Scott Bain, Alan Hutton, Lee Wallace and Chris Martin all withdrew from the original party.

Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, James Forrest, Leigh Griffiths and captain Scott Brown have all been given time off, with Celtic in Champions League qualifying action in mid-July.

Hearts full-back Callum Paterson made his debut against Italy, leaving Rangers winger Barrie McKay, Swansea left-back Stephen Kingsley and goalkeepers Scott Fox and Jack Hamilton as the uncapped players at Strachan’s disposal.

But the Scotland boss has said he intends to rely on those with more experience.

Strachan said: “Will there be any young kids in? I’d like to give them a chance somewhere down the line but you can’t just throw them into something like this because you can knock them back if it’s too overwhelming for them.”

Euro 2016 hosts France will be playing their final warm-up match before kicking the tournament off against Romania in Paris on 10 June.

And the hosts are likely to be near full-strength against the Scots, with Antoine Griezmann returning after his Champions League final disappointment with Atletico Madrid.

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Jun 042016
Xavi, Zinedine Zidane, Johan Cruyff and Ronaldo – all four feature in teams in our top 10

Which team can claim to be the greatest international side of all time?

It is a question that has long seemed impossible to answer, since players from different decades can never face each other at their peaks.

Add in an element of nostalgia – who doesn’t have a rose-tinted view of the teams they watched as a child? – plus the fact that fleeting glimpses of star players have been replaced by wall-to-wall television coverage, and it is quite a challenge to consider the merits of teams across eras.

Here, with the help of SAM, the super computer built by Salford University professors Ian McHale, Rose Baker and others, BBC Sport assessed every side to have played an international match and analysed every international result.

Taking into account a range of factors – including goals scored, goals conceded, the strength of the opposition faced and whether or not results were achieved in major tournaments – we have come up with the top 10 teams of all time.

There are no English or Italian teams. As for the winners? You might well be surprised.

10. West Germany 1974

Gerd Muller (right) was the top scorer in the Bundesliga for seven seasons in the 1960s and 1970s

Line-up: Sepp Maier, Berti Vogts, Franz Beckenbauer, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Paul Breitner, Rainer Bonhof, Uli Hoeness, Wolfgang Overath, Jurgen Grabowski, Gerd Muller, Bernd Hölzenbein.

West Germany had come close to winning the World Cup twice in the preceding decade, losing 4-2 to England at Wembley in 1966 and 4-3 to Italy in a spectacular semi-final in Mexico four years later – so the stage was set for it to be third time lucky for veteran coach Helmut Schoen and his team as the host country in 1974.

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The story of the 1974 World Cup

They were guided on the pitch by an all-time great in the shape of Franz Beckenbauer. They had world-class defender Berti Vogts in their ranks. Wolfgang Overath was the midfield strategist and in attack they had the marksman supreme in Gerd Muller, scorer of 14 goals in 13 World Cup matches.

Their meeting with the Netherlands in the final got off to the worst possible start when they conceded a first-minute penalty, but through sheer determination, and no little quality, they fought their way back to win through Paul Breitner’s penalty and, inevitably, a winner from Muller.

This West Germany side will not be remembered with the same fondness as some of the teams on this list but, like so many of their compatriots down the years, they got the job done.

Source: SAM the super computer

9. France 2000

France beat Spain, Portugal and Italy on their way to winning Euro 2000

Line-up: Fabien Barthez, Lilian Thuram, Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Bixente Lizarazu, Patrick Vieira, Didier Deschamps, Youri Djorkaeff, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Christophe Dugarry.

Just look at that line-up! Built around star midfielder and three-time world player of the year Zinedine Zidane, this was the team that began the Euro 2000 final, a side so strong that two of Europe’s finest players at the time, Robert Pires and David Trezeguet, could not get in the first XI.

It was a group consisting largely of the players who won France’s first World Cup in 1998, but with a few tweaks.

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Euro 2000: France 2-1 Italy (aet)

One, in particular, took the French to the next level. Out went striker Stephane Guivarc’h, scorer of just one goal in 14 internationals, and in came 22-year-old Thierry Henry, a forward who would go on to score 51 goals in an international career spanning 13 years.

With Laurent Blanc in for Frank Leboeuf in defence, Patrick Vieira replacing Emmanuel Petit in midfield and attacker Christophe Dugarry taking Christian Karambeu’s place, France became the first team in 26 years to win a World Cup and European Championship back-to-back – West Germany won the Euros in 1972 and followed that by claiming the 1974 World Cup.

Source: SAM the super computer

8. Argentina 2010

Argentina won all their group games at the 2010 World Cup but were thrashed 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals

Line-up: Sergio Romero, Walter Samuel, Gabriel Heinze, Martin Demichelis, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi.

Think Argentina and the mind instantly conjures images of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Two iconic players, global superstars, both of whom led their sides to World Cup finals – Maradona winning one in 1986 and losing one in 1990, Messi losing out in 2014.

But none of those three teams make it in to our top 10, and there is space for only one of Argentina’s two most famous players.

For all Maradona’s individual brilliance, the 2010 side featuring Messi – as well as Carlos Tevez, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain – are considered the best Argentina has produced. Bear in mind the fact Sergio Aguero was predominantly only a substitute and you get a sense of their attacking strength.

“To any football fan, it is odd that the results show that the 2010 team would beat the 1986 team,” says Professor McHale.

“But there are some things that data and statistics can’t pick up on – the human spirit, mental fortitude, attitude when things aren’t going for you. There is only so much it can tell.

“The 1986 team lost 11 times in the three-year sample period, in part because they often played weakened teams in friendlies for a variety of reasons. That helps to explain why a team as brilliant as Maradona’s 1986 side do not make the list.”

While Argentina 2010 are perhaps the surprise entry on this list, their results in the period suggest they deserve their place. Less than two months after Spain won the World Cup, the world champions were thrashed 4-1 in Buenos Aires, a result Argentina followed up two months later with a 1-0 win over Brazil.

Source: SAM the super computer

7. Brazil 1970

Pele won three of the four World Cups he competed in – in 1958, 1962 and 1970

Line-up: Felix, Carlos Alberto, Everaldo, Brito, Piazza, Clodoaldo, Gerson, Jairzinho, Rivelino, Tostao, Pele.

For many, the greatest team of all time. But not when judged by cold, hard stats.

Pele led the way for Brazil during this period, but the names of his colleagues roll off the tongue as a list of the game’s greats: captain Carlos Alberto, Gerson, Tostao, Jairzinho, Rivelino.

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World Cup 2014: 100 great World Cup moments – One day to go

In 1970 alone, they played 14, won 12 and lost only once, scoring four or more goals five times. Therein lies part of the explanation as to why they do not feature further up the list – their opponents were often relatively weak, meaning victories earned them less credit in our ranking system.

This team, though, were the stuff of fantasy, regrouping after a below-par performance in England four years earlier when Pele was kicked out of the tournament. Mexico 1970 was the great man’s World Cup finale after his first win in Sweden in 1958 and he bade farewell in style.

England pushed them closest in a classic group game in Guadalajara settled by Jairzinho’s goal, and this was a team so good they were even able to carry a goalkeeping liability in Felix with no ill effects.

The final against Italy in Mexico’s Aztec Stadium was their showpiece. Goals from Pele, Gerson, Jairzinho and the brilliant flourish of passing to set up Carlos Alberto for the most famous goal in the 4-1 win was the crowning glory for an utterly brilliant side.

Source: SAM the super computer

6. Netherlands 1974

Johan Cruyff won the Ballon d’Or – then the award for Europe’s best player – in 1971, 1973 and 1974

Line-up: Jan Jongbloed, Ruud Krol, Wim Rijsbergen, Wim Suurbier, Wim Jansen, Arie Haan, Wim van Hanegem, Johan Neeskens, Johan Cruyff, Rob Rensenbrink, Johnny Rep.

One of the greatest teams never to win the World Cup. The Dutch were masterly throughout the 1974 tournament, demonstrating a tactical and technical ability far above every other team, guided on the pitch by the brilliant Johan Cruyff and off it by the master of “Total Football”, the visionary coach Rinus Michels.

Cruyff led a team full of talent in defender Ruud Krol, midfielders Arie Haan and Johan Neeskens as well as forwards Johnny Rep and Rob Rensenbrink.

In the goalless draw against Sweden, the “Cruyff turn” was invented, as the great man bamboozled Jan Olsson with a piece of football ballet that will forever bear his name.

The Netherlands then gave masterclasses against Argentina, who they beat 4-0, and the fading reigning champions Brazil, where they won 2-0. The victory was far more convincing than the scoreline suggests.

There was a touch of arrogance about this side and it cost them in the final against West Germany in Munich. Instead of capitalising on Neeskens’ first-minute penalty they wanted to humiliate their opponents – allowing the ruthless hosts to recover and claim the World Cup with a 2-1 win.

Source: SAM the super computer

5. Germany 2012

Five of the Germany team that started the Euro 2012 semi-final were in the side that won the European Under-21 Championship three years earlier

Line-up: Manuel Neuer, Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Muller

This was the team that laid the foundations for the World Cup win that was to follow in 2014.

A side which mixed the experience of Miroslav Klose (who would go on to become the all-time World Cup top scorer with 16 goals) and Bastian Schweinsteiger with a younger generation that included Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller, their quarter-final win against Greece at Euro 2012 was their 15th consecutive competitive victory.

The defeat by Italy in the semi-finals of that tournament would prove to be little more than a blip, as Joachim Low’s side embarked on a new run of 18 competitive matches unbeaten, a sequence which included a remarkable 7-1 thrashing of hosts Brazil and ended with a World Cup final victory against Argentina.

Source: SAM the super computer

4. Brazil 2013

Neymar inspired Brazil to the Confederations Cup in 2013 – but could not repeat the feat at the World Cup a year later

Line-up: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Marcelo, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Bernard, Paulinho, Oscar, Hulk, Neymar, Fred

A year away from hosting their own World Cup, Brazil could hardly have been better positioned to succeed on home soil.

An 11-game unbeaten run in 2013 culminated in five straight wins at the Confederations Cup, a tournament which doubled as a dry run for the main event the following summer. Not only did Brazil win that competition but they did so in style, beating France 3-0 and Italy 4-2 before hammering world and European champions Spain 3-0 in the final.

They were the world’s in-form team and, with Neymar as their talisman, continued their impressive record in to World Cup year, recording 10 wins in a row and 13 out of 14 in total.

Yet for all that promise, this will be a team forever associated with one of the great humiliations in modern sport. A game away from a final at the Maracana in Rio, Brazil were 5-0 down to Germany in the semi-final inside 29 minutes and were eventually demolished 7-1.

It was a one-off – Brazil went on to win 11 straight matches after the World Cup, including victories against Argentina and France – but that defeat by Germany is a result that will always define them.

Source: SAM the super computer

3. Spain 2010

Six of the Spain team that started the 2010 World Cup final were Barcelona players while another one, Pedro, joined the Catalan club that summer

Line-up: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Joan Capdevila, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, David Villa, Fernando Torres

The inventors of tiki-taka,