• Ruaraidh Britton

Misfiring Scots stunned by “Schickener”

If ever you were to show Scotland fans what a brutal slap back down to reality looks like, yesterday was it. All that anticipation and excitement and yet just before 1pm, excitement turned to concern which turned to despair which turned to disappointment. Such a promising young squad, came, saw, and got conquered by a rare display of Czech brilliance. They soaked up every ounce of pressure, and bid their time, and with one very strong header from a set piece and a one in a billion strike from the halfway line, Scotland’s return to a major tournament was hit with a brutal reality that it isn’t easy on the big stage.

From the word go, fear gripped the nation, with the news that inform Che Adams only made the bench, and the ever impressive Kieran Tierney didn’t even make the match day 23, with an injury preventing him from making his Euros debut. It was a brutal hammer blow to Scotland’s chances, half through sheer misfortune, and half through the management team deciding Ryan Christie was the answer to our hopes, and Stephen O’Donnell could do the job. Ultimately, we weren’t played off the park, we dominated the game and had chance after chance after chance, but the main reason yesterday’s game went so badly wrong comes down to selection, and lack of concentration.

The selection worked so well in places. Andy Robertson created six massive chances for Scotland, more than any other player in the tournament, and probably had his best game in a Scotland shirt yesterday, but even his magic couldn’t get this side in front. His effort on goal was agonisingly close, but it turns out the Czech keeper was actually prime 2003 Buffon yesterday. He had an outrageously good game, and it felt so typical that he played the way he did when it mattered. Robbo did his best, and gave everything to Dykes, Christie and then Adams who appeared after 45 minutes, but not one of them could get a shot away and it was incredibly frustrating.

The midfield had a difficult afternoon, Scott McTominay looked good, but John McGinn was well held down all game by Tomas Soucek of West Ham, and it really is infuriating that they have experience against each other from Premier League meetings, yet McGinn couldn’t crack him yesterday. Then there’s the back three, of whom two kept me and fellow Scots happy yesterday. Liam Cooper and Grant Hanley had a reasonable outing, but Jack Hendry looked done by the Czech’s, and in a moment of madness, his pointless blast on goal led to the second for the opposition, which not only feels sickening given how avoidable it was, but because of the goal it led to.

I don’t think we will see much better a goal this tournament, and I have a weird feeling towards it. Yarmolenko’s goal for Ukraine wins far more praise for me given his efforts against the Netherlands took much more work than just blasting it down field like Schick, but you have to admit that was a one in a billion strike from the forward. David Marshall should never have been that far out of goal, and it is criminal positioning from the man who is a hero for getting us to this tournament and a villain in game one. You will always see a badly positioned goalkeeper whenever a long range strike is scored, and this was the case again, so it feels more self-inflicted, but credit to Schick for getting it away and killing the game, and the crowd.

12,000 was the quoted number, yet just over 10,000 were actually inside, but the figures aside, Hampden’s roar was so good to hear after having no fans since November 2019. We deserved a full stadium, but it sounded sensational from the word go. We have missed the Tartan Army badly, and you could tell by the way they pushed the team forward just the level of influence they can have. But after a clumsy lapse in concentration from a set-piece, the crowd died down after Schick’s opener just before half-time. It was momentary, yet it now could define our progress to the last 16, and that is the amazing thing with football. We played such a good game for well over 90 minutes, yet two moments of sheer lunacy now make it feel certain our tournament will be over by next Tuesday. A really strong England side and a stubborn Croatia lie in wait, and it genuinely may be the case we beat one of them and go through, but likeliness will feel like it’s gone through the floor after yesterday.

We need to pray for Tierney’s return and for better selections for Friday. Billy Gilmour could have worked something special in midfield yesterday when it wasn’t working out for us, and Nathan Patterson may well have been a welcome boost on the right hand side, but ultimately, everyone needs to step up for England, because this will be such a huge test that could well define what we waited 23 years for. Heads up troops, it ain’t over till it’s over.