Euro 2020

Scottish hopes undone by classy Croatians

Out: Andy Robertson (pic: SNS Group)

Croatia 3 Scotland 1
Group D
Hampden Park

Scotland’s hopes of making the last 16 of Euro 2020 were undone by a classy display from a Croatian team led by the masterful Luka Modric.

Any sort of victory in Glasgow would have sent the Scots through to the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time in 11 attempts.

However, Steve Clarke’s side came up short, outplayed by the Croats who booked their passage out the group as runners-up behind England, 1-0 victors over the Czech Republic at Wembley.

The display against the English had raised expectations ahead of the make-or-break clash at Hampden but Scotland never got close to the same level of performance.

It was Croatia’s first win over Scotland in six attempts but Clarke had little complaint.

“I’m sad for the players. We waited a long time to get to a tournament and it was a good group of players that got us there,” he said.

“And over the course of the tournament there was a lot of good stuff but ultimately not the points we needed.

“We were against a team that are tournament hardened and they knew how to play the third game in a group and probably we didn’t. That’s why we’re going home and Croatia are going through.

“I’m talking about being tournament ready – we didn’t get anything out the first game which meant we had to go to Wembley and expend a lot of energy physically and mentally to give ourselves a chance and maybe we suffered for it in the third game.

“That’s something we can learn for the next tournament – I promise you it won’t be 23 years until the next one.”

Luka Modric’s midfield masterclass helped the 2018 World Cup finalists dominate the ball, and his goal early in the second half will be among the goals of the tournament.

The Real Madrid star’s 25-yarder with the outside of his right foot gave David Marshall no chance and restored the Croats’ lead after Callum McGregor had cancelled out Vlasic’s 17th-minute opener as the interval approached.

McGregor’s effort, his first international goal, was Scotland’s first goal in a major tournament since Craig Burley’s strike against Norway in France 98.

It should have given the Scots the confidence to take the game to Croatia after the break but they struggled to build any momentum, deflated by Modric’s wonderful strike and falling further behind when Ivan Perisic glanced home a Modric corner 13 minutes from time.

The Tartan Army applauded the players at the final whistle, recognising the effort the team had put in during the tournament – particularly against England.

When the disappointment of failing to achieve history begins to fade, there will be plenty of positives for Clarke and the fans to reflect on as they now look to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

Billy Gilmour, ruled out of the Croatia match after testing positive for Covid-19, emerged as a player of genuine class at Wembley. Nathan Patterson could soon be the first choice right-back, while the likes of Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, John McGinn and David Turnbull are a core group of exciting players who could provide a foundation for Clarke to build his team around.

Scotland: Marshall, McTominay, Hanley (McKenna, 33), Tierney, O’Donnell (Paterson, 84), McGinn, McGregor, Armstrong (Fraser, 70), Robertson, Dykes, Adams (Nisbet, 84). Substitutes unused: Christie, Gordon, Fleck, Gallagher, Cooper, Turnbull, McLaughlin, Forrest.

England had already qualified before facing the Czech Republic but Raheem Sterling’s first-half goal ensured they progressed as group winners. They will now likely face one of France, Germany or Portugal in the last-16, depending on which nation finishes as runner-up in Group F.

Gareth Southgate’s team will have home advantage as the match will take place at Wembley next Tuesday night.

The stadium has been confirmed as the venue for both semi-finals and the final of Euro 2020, with the UK government announcing its capacity will rise to 75 per cent – allowing more than 60,000 fans to attend compared to the 22,500 for the group games.

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