GLASGOW (Reuters) – It only takes a second to score a goal, so the old saying goes, but unfortunately for Scotland it took them three hours and 42 minutes to find the net at Euro 2020 and their struggles up front ultimately led to their downfall.
A 3-1 defeat by Croatia in their final game at Hampden Park left Scotland bottom of Group D and out of the tournament, with a solitary point gained in a spirited, yet goalless, draw with England.
Goals are football’s most valuable currency and for all Scotland’s fiery determination and dogged resilience, for all their hustle and bustle, for all their determined aggression, they struggled to put the ball in the net when it mattered.
They came into their final game as the only team yet to score at Euro 2020 and while Callum McGregor’s first-half leveller gave them hope of reaching the knockouts, they mustered little else in the remainder of the match.
That, after drawing a blank in their opening 2-0 loss to Czech Republic and the stalemate at Wembley, meant they continued their run of never having reached the knockouts at a major tournament in eight World Cups and three European Championships.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke pointed to a lack of tournament experience.
“Tonight 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,” he said. “That’s why we’re going home and Croatia are going through.”
Yet Scotland possess talented players, playing their football at the Premier League’s best clubs.
Captain Andy Robertson remains one of the game’s most impressive left-sided players while Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney can also lay claim to be among the best in his position.
Scott McTominay regularly patrols the midfield for Manchester United, who finished second in England’s top flight, and John McGinn holds his own among Premier League midfielders at Aston Villa.
Yet Scotland lack a centre forward with the same credentials.
Lyndon Dykes, who plays in England’s second tier for Queens Park Rangers, led Scotland’s line in all three group games and while he could be a menacing physical presence, he has now scored just two goals in 15 internationals.
Che Adams came into the side to face England and added mobility, but he too was wasteful in front of goal in the Wembley game and barely got a look-in against Croatia.
Clarke’s side were certainly hit with a hammer blow in the leadup to their final game with the news that Billy Gilmour would miss the match following a positive COVID-19 test.
The 20-year-old had been man of the match against England at Wembley, showcasing a talent that made him look not only an enticing prospect for Scotland’s future but ready to leave a mark on the international stage.
When Clarke conducts his own post-mortem of Scotland’s tournament he might regret not including the Chelsea youngster in his starting team for their opening game against the Czech Republic.
Playing in their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, Scotland arrived at Euro 2020 with lofty ambitions of upsetting the odds to reach the last 16.
Yet for the country and their fans who adopted the 1970s disco hit ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ as their unofficial tournament anthem, the party was short-lived.
(Reporting by Toby Davis, editing by Ed Osmond)