Scotland endured a sobering experience at Euro 2020 as they crashed out at the group stage. A 3-1 defeat against Croatia at Hampden Park condemned them to an early exit, and in 11 previous appearances at major tournaments, the Scots have never reached the knockout stages.
It is another steep learning curve for a side that promised more, and Steve Clarke’s men will need to dust themselves down and pick themselves up as they try and secure a place at next year’s World Cup. In this piece, we will discuss the three main takeaways of Scotland’s Euro 2020 headache, and how it can spur them to greater heights in the future.
Scottish torment never far away
Before this summer, Scotland had a 23-year exile from major tournaments, and their last appearance at the Euros was in 1996. Going into Euro 2020, they weren’t fancied in the Euro 2020 betting markets, and while Group D wasn’t the toughest group, there were still familiar suspects in the likes of the ‘Auld Enemy’ England.
The opening group game against Czech Republic emphasised Scotland’s shortcomings, as they struggled to sustain the early momentum, and Patrik Schick’s double knocked the wind out of their sails. In particular, Schick’s second – an outrageous effort from just past the halfway line that looped over a backpedalling David Marshall – was something to savour, even if it wasn’t from a Scottish perspective.
But it was against Croatia where they were callow, and surrendered meekly. Having got back into the game thanks to a thundering drive from Callum McGregor, they were outdone by a sumptuous strike from Luka Modrić before an Ivan Perišić goal wrapped up the points, and paved Croatia’s route to the Round of 16 at Scotland’s expense.
Goals too hard to come by
For all their hard work against England, Scotland had nothing to show for it. A draw may have seemed like a positive result, but it was merely another game where the Scots were toothless up front.
McGregor may have ended their long wait for a goal at the Euros, but in their first two games, the Scots had 30 attempts on goal without the net rippling. It was always likely to be a tall order trying to topple Croatia, and they couldn’t manage it. However, in squandering the chances they fashioned for themselves, Scotland’s bluntness was always going to mean they would pay a heavy price.
Makings of a good squad
There is plenty of promise in the Scotland squad, and Steve Clarke has the makings of a good side. Provided he stays on until the World Cup 2022 campaign (Scotland need to qualify for that!), Clarke can tap into a wealth of talent, which includes Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour, who sat out the Croatia defeat after testing positive for COVID-19.
Nevertheless, it is still a relatively young squad, and there is plenty of quality all over the park, especially when you take into account the likes of Scott McTominay and Che Adams.
Scotland will be feeling bruised from Euro 2020, and while it wasn’t the outcome they were hoping for, they can emerge much stronger from it.