Scotland’s Euro 2020 run draws to a close: A look back on the summer the Tartan Army craved
So after eight days, Steve Clarke and the Scotland squad bow out of Euro 2020 following a 3-1 defeat to Croatia. Luka Modric saved his best for Scotland it seems, and his performance completely decimated our efforts of getting out of Group D. It was a gut-punching blow to say the least, but one that could easily have been foreseen. But after 23 years away, we should look back on the summer with pride, and look at how far this team has come and how far it can go despite how disappointing it was for Scotland not to reach the last sixteen yet again.
The game on Tuesday was labelled do or die by many, including myself, and I look back wishing we hadn’t put such immense pressure on this group, but after watching them lose to England and only just salvage a draw with the Czechs, this felt like a game for the taking. But tactically we were inept, and our substitutions made little to no sense. 90% of this team is accustomed to ‘gegenpressing’ football and almost playing the Liverpool way when it comes to being in and out of possession, and yet we sat off and gave a world class Modric the space to exploit us. As you’d expect, they did just that, and it killed us, and that’s before you add in the outrageously good goal from Modric.
The substitutions showed we’d given up, and the decision to replace an injured Grant Hanley with Scott McKenna, who immediately got booked, rather than an in-from Liam Cooper hurts my head. But the game was gone, and the tournament was over. At least we got a moment of sheer joy seeing Callum McGregor fire one into the bottom left; that sheer feeling of pandemonium across the nation will never be forgotten. Croatia turned up when they needed to. World Cup runners up, and heavyweights in the group, their fans and media had been oh so violent towards them after two dreadful results, and they finally got what they needed. We however were treated like newbies and that felt rough, but ultimately, we had nowhere near Croatia’s level of expectation, and this was never an easy group for Scotland. Yet the disappointment from dominating the Czech’s and still losing, and then holding our noisy neighbours to a draw makes it feel like this group could have been beaten. It’s a strange feeling that almost says “thanks but no thanks” for what was the summer we had all been waiting for yet somehow been let down by.
Scotland will be back. Don’t get your hopes up for Qatar, that is a serious challenge ahead of us with only 13 European places available and the way Austria and Denmark are playing at the minute with qualifiers against them to come. Besides, I don’t want to be stressing about making a Christmas work-do and a group stage game in the same night. Germany 2024 has to be the realistic aim for this group of players. The youth, the talent, the desire, it is all there in this group of players, and we have no excuses for not making the next Euros. It would be a damn shame to see this generation of players get one crack at a tournament and that be that for the next 23 years again. The beer is better in Germany anyways, seeing it exists.
Enough about the future, there was a lot of take away from this tournament for Scotland. Seeing a lad from Motherwell drive England fans around the bend, watching Billy Gilmour tear up the turf at Wembley, hearing Flower of Scotland at Hampden, being out in the streets seeing flags, shirts, and knowing there’s a party across the nation. We have had one hell of a summer, and despite the disappointment of not making the last sixteen, Scotland needed this and the players needed this. What motivation is there to make a tournament if you never qualify for one compared to being just off the back of a Euros?
This group know they have got to fight for their place in the next one to give Scotland that feel good factor we had this summer.
We finally got the chance to show a generation what it’s like having Scotland at a major tournament. Seeing the saltire hanging from the roof of the Stadio Olimpico on the opening night reminded us just how good this summer was going to be. There was excitement and drama for the Scots. Suddenly a dead rubber between Austria and Ukraine had ramifications for us and made it all the more entertaining. The added drama of us being there made the groups just oh so fun, and to have that back again without a two decade wait would be just the ticket. It’s been one hell of a ride folks, but this is only just the beginning.