TODAY, in Part Two of Scotzine’s salute to Denis Law, Scotland’s favourite footballing son, we continue to trace his remarkable international comeback.
These are EXCLUSIVE extracts from Alex Gordon’s book, ‘DENIS LAW: King and Country’, which was published by Arena Sport in 2013.
DENIS LAW and his international team-mates were allowed to spend some time with their families during the brief summer interlude, but they were all back in place again by the time the Brazil Independence Cup kicked off in Belo Horizonte on 29 June.
A disappointing crowd of only 4,000 bothered to attend at the Estadio Mineiro for the game against Yugoslavia which was a pity because they missed a stirring, rousing confrontation. Law started alongside Celtic’s pint-sized predator Lou Macari who would later become a teammate at Manchester United, bought for £200,000 by Tommy Docherty, an obvious admirer of the player.
The Doc sprung a surprise by giving Partick Thistle defender Alex Forsyth his first cap. John Hansen, brother of Alan, also made his international debut, coming on for Firhill teammate Forsyth at the start of the second-half. In searing temperatures of 80 degrees, Macari enhanced his growing reputation by turning in a cross from Willie Morgan in the 40th minute. Dusan Bajevic equalised just after the hour, but Macari responded immediately by giving the Scots the advantage again, once more set up by Morgan.
It seemed as though Manchester United winger Morgan could do no wrong, but he slipped up in the 77th minute when he missed a penalty-kick. Yugoslavia took full advantage with the leveller from substitute Jure Jerkovic near the end.
Law lasted 76 minutes in uncomfortable conditions before being replaced by Jimmy Bone and would play 78 minutes in the next match, a goalless draw with Czechoslovakia in Porto Alegre watched by a crowd of 15,000. Law, substituted by Colin Stein, had started the match up front alongside Macari and it was a pairing that more than satisfied the manager.
‘They dovetail perfectly. They are a good mix, they both put a lot of energy into their game and there are goals in them, too.’ The next game was the one in which everyone wanted to be involved; Brazil in the Maracana, the massive grey bowl of a stadium in Rio de Janeiro. A crowd of 130,000 was there to witness the action on 5 July. Scotland were earning good reviews in South America and were undoubtedly making friends with their enterprising, entertaining style of play.
The Brazilians had Jairzinho, who had scored in every round of the 1970 World Cup Finals, leading the attack, abandoning his more orthodox outside-right role, and also gave starts to Roberto Rivelino, Hercules Brito, Clodoaldo, Gerson and Tostao, five of the team that beat Italy 4-1 to claim the trophy in Mexico. Law and Macari were once again the double spearhead with Aberdeen’s Bobby Clark preferred to Ally Hunter in goal for the second successive game.
Alex Forsyth, Eddie Colquhoun, Martin Buchan and Willie Donachie made up the back four with a midfield of Willie Morgan, Billy Bremner, George Graham and Asa Hartford backing up Law and Macari. Everything was going according to plan, but Jairzinho spoiled the party 10 minutes from the end with the game’s solitary goal.
The Doc was far from despondent. ‘We came to put on a show and I think we managed that. I am so proud of the boys, they were a credit to their country. There wasn’t a failure in sight and everyone played their part.’
The Brazilian Press again marvelled at the Scots and quizzed if Denis Law was really 32-years-old such was the impact he had made in the mini-tournament. The South American hacks rated Law as ‘a phenomenon’ and Docherty as ‘a master strategist’.
They also acclaimed Partick Thistle full-back Alex Forsyth who, oddly, would only win another seven caps. Like Macari, he had done well enough to be noted by the manager and he was also snapped up for Manchester United once Docherty had quit the international post.
Law would go on to play in the World Cup Finals in West Germany in 1974 – but that’s a story for another day!
TOMORROW: Denis Law: My Hero! A Rangers legend has his say.