What can Scotland learn from the Euros?

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June 24, 2021
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    Euro 2020: Andy Robertson pays tribute to the fans after Scotland's Euros exit

    Euro 2020 on the BBC
    Dates: 11 June-11 July. Venues: Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Seville, St Petersburg. Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for more details

    Well, it was fun while it lasted. After a 23-year major tournament exile, Scotland savoured a heady nine days at Euro 2020.

    The ending was painfully familiar as defeat by Croatia at Hampden ensured Steve Clarke's side trudged home early just as the party was getting into full swing.

    But the tournament – on the pitch and all around the country – has whetted Scotland's appetite for more.

    So, as the disappointment subsides and thoughts turn to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, what can Scotland learn from their return to the big stage?

    • Scotland can reach more tournaments – James McFadden
    • Shackles of the past shaken off for a bright future

    Gilmour has to play

    Okay, Scotland could not make history by reaching the knockout stage, but they will always have Wembley. The heartbeat and standout of that compelling goalless draw with England was Billy Gilmour, as the Tartan Army were finally given what they wanted – the wee man making his first start.

    The stage could hardly have been tougher, nor the expectation higher, but the 20-year-old midfielder delivered… and then some.

    The sight of Gilmour – the youngest player on the pitch – constantly demanding the ball, dictating play and snapping into tackles was a glimpse of Scotland's future.

    Gilmour probably should have started the opening game against the Czech Republic, a 2-0 defeat that would come back to haunt Scotland.

    Having justified his inclusion at Wembley, Gilmour was primed to face Croatia until contracting Covid-19. It was a cruel blow, the only kind of positive result Scotland did not want.

    Regardless, when World Cup qualifying resumes in September, Gilmour has to be a first pick. One start was sufficient to prove, if anyone did not already know, this lad is special. Scotland are a better team with Gilmour in it.

    Sharper edge needed

    Creating chances was not a big problem. Taking them was. Over the three games, Clarke's side had 41 attempts at goal, with 12 on target, and scored just once.

    The woodwork was pinged against the Czechs, a goal-line clearance denied the Scots at Wembley, while John McGinn knocked wide from a couple of yards in the last hurrah against Croatia.

    When opportunities came, Scotland were too often found wanting. At this level, such moments make the difference.

    Scotland at least posed much more of a threat when they deployed two strikers. Clarke rectified his decision to leave striker Che Adams on the bench by throwing him on at half-time against the Czechs and partnering him with Lyndon Dykes for the remaining matches.

    Newcomer Adams has accumulated his seven caps in just three months and looks a useful addition. He and Dykes could never be accused of not putting a shift in, but a more clinical edge is needed. Dykes firing straight at Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik from eight yards had Scotland fans tearing their hair out in frustration.

    The lack of conviction in these situations was not confined to the strikers either. Andy Robertson, for instance, let a golden chance slip away in the opener. No matter where they come from, Scotland need more goals.

    Direct approach fails to pay off

    Scotland's two defeats had a common theme – a succession of long balls launched towards the forwards.

    The direct tactics against the Czechs and Croatia were markedly different to the possession-based, tight passing game plan that reaped rewards at Wembley.

    As Scotland toiled against Croatia, former captain Graeme Souness remarked that Clarke's men looked like "a team from the past" as they frequently went long.

    Midfield is the strongest area of this Scotland team and a direct approach bypasses this asset. Gilmour, John McGinn and Callum McGregor are all comfortable in control, making passes and setting the tempo.

    Scotland have to play to their strengths to get the best from their collective talents.

    Lack of nous exposed

    In the end, Scotland were outclassed by Croatia to seal their fate. There could be few complaints as a Luka Modric-inspired side showed the class that took them to the World Cup finals three years prior.

    There was savvy to go with the Croats' superiority, though, in a must-win game for both sides. After Scotland hauled themselves level just before the break, Croatia refused to panic. Instead, they re-emerged and dominated.

    Despite having five at the back, sloppy defending contributed to Scotland's downfall.

    Similar naivety cost Scotland against the Czechs. Patrik Schick's wonder goal from the halfway line would perhaps not have stung as much had goalkeeper David Marshall not been so far off his line.

    Pre-tournament, that looked the key game for Scotland. And so it proved.

    Those painful mistakes are all part of the learning curve but cannot be repeated as Scotland garner the experience needed to make sure they are not just fleeting visitors to this level.

    Patrik Schick's Hampden double condemned Scotland to an opening defeatPatrik Schick's Hampden double condemned Scotland to an opening defeat

    A platform to build from

    Reaction to Scotland's exit has, predictably, been mixed – veering from undiminished pride to hysterical calls for Clarke to go.

    Not making it out of the group, when two of Scotland's three games were at Hampden and third place was enough to progress, represents a missed opportunity. Clarke's tactics and team selection have also come under the microscope.

    As the dust settles, though, positivity should replace deflation. Scotland offered plenty in their first venture to this rarefied stage since 1998. It can be a platform for further progress rather than a high watermark.

    Clarke has now been at the helm for two years – 24 games – and his squad is not on its last legs but instead is brimming with potential for improvement.

    Gilmour, Nathan Patterson and David Turnbull are the bright young prospects who have broken into the squad and can now force themselves into the team.

    Of the 26 players Clarke took to the Euros, only the three goalkeepers and centre-back Declan Gallagher are over the age of 30. There are lessons to be learned, but a lot more to come from this crop.

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    378 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • F

      Comment posted by Fraziel, today at 10:11

      Stop playing lump it, long ball football from a bygone age to a target man would be a start. Nobody plays like that for a reason. Put talent over sentiment which means playing Turnbull, Patterson. Stop putting square pegs in round holes. Improve technical ability. Its poor.And Stop making excuses about lack of experience. Wales hadn’t got to a tournament in 58 years and got to the semis in 2016713

      • E

        Reply posted by ebola, today at 11:18

        "Stop playing lump it, long ball football from a bygone age to a target man would be a start. Nobody plays like that for a reason. Put talent over sentiment which means playing Turnbull, Patterson. Stop putting square pegs in round holes. Improve technical ability. Its poor.And Stop making excuses about lack of experience. Wales hadn’t got to a tournament in 58 years and got to the semis in 2016"ebola replied: Spot on. Having the ability to hold onto the ball for more than 3 seconds would also help.232

      More replies (4)

    • B

      Comment posted by Buzz Lightyear, today at 10:14

      The relentless fixation with England and the English is constantly holding us back, this fixation drags the country down.7114

      • A

        Reply posted by Andy Malcolm, today at 10:30

        "The relentless fixation with England and the English is constantly holding us back, this fixation drags the country down."Andy Malcolm replied: I think that attitude is more with the older generation, young folk not so bothered as Scotland far more international now, pre-covid travelling all over, folk living here from all over & far more independent now from rest of UK in so many ways
        These HYS sites with there WUMs & folk like J Jenas, Ferdinand etc fan the flames but genuinely i don’t care if England win/lose or draw unless playing us1814

      More replies (11)

    • Y

      Comment posted by Your Comment, today at 10:45

      What Scotland can learn from this tournament:

      1) Dont assume the opposition will just keel over and lose to you. Too much hype and expectation before the Czech and Croatia games as if a win was guaranteed.

      2) Average players who play 1 good game don’t magically become World Class. Too much “Talking Up” their own players.

      3) A 0-0 scoreline is NOT a win, its a draw.6611

      • M

        Reply posted by my nan would win the English league, today at 10:58

        "What Scotland can learn from this tournament: 1) Dont assume the opposition will just keel over and lose to you. Too much hype and expectation before the Czech and Croatia games as if a win was guaranteed. 2) Average players who play 1 good game don’t magically become World Class. Too much “Talking Up” their own players. 3) A 0-0 scoreline is NOT a win, its a draw."my nan would win the English league replied: Are you being serious?? Engurlund expected us to keel over and take a pumping. We had your amazing commentary saying how it was going to be at least 3 nil. Get a grip.2452

      More replies (19)

    • K

      Comment posted by Kuns_Right_Foot, today at 10:08

      I am a Scotland supporter but there are good things and bad things about this whole Euro experience.
      Firstly the bad they qualified via the backdoor by beating other teams as poor as they were.
      Then the good: when all is said and done I thought all 3 performances were a massive improvement on what I’ve seen in recent years particularly with chances created and lets hope they can build on that.435

      • S

        Reply posted by Sirrantsalot, today at 12:36

        "I am a Scotland supporter but there are good things and bad things about this whole Euro experience.Firstly the bad they qualified via the backdoor by beating other teams as poor as they were.Then the good: when all is said and done I thought all 3 performances were a massive improvement on what I’ve seen in recent years particularly with chances created and lets hope they can build on that."Sirrantsalot replied: Says it all though that you think 2 defeats – and a nil nil against awful England – is an improvement!

        Fact is that Scotland will always have a smaller talent pool than England, but there’s no reason you can’t be at least be a Hungary, or Switzerland, or Sweden. Just need to develop some players who are actually good, not ones you think are good, because most of your team is dross.1612

      More replies (4)

    • H

      Comment posted by Half more than Indio, today at 10:20

      They’ve learnd that the expanded tournament and playing low ranked teams like themselves in the nations league gives them another shot at qualifying for the next euro champs to make up the numbers2711

      • F

        Reply posted by Frank59, today at 13:41

        "They’ve learnd that the expanded tournament and playing low ranked teams like themselves in the nations league gives them another shot at qualifying for the next euro champs to make up the numbers"Frank59 replied: Exactly right, they have to remember that they only qualified because the amount of teams in the tournament was extended.72

    • H

      Comment posted by hfhno1, today at 10:13

      Congratulations coming 22nd out of 24.
      What they should learn is a slightly improving team having a bore draw doesn’t mean they have new superstars or that they’re miles better than they actually are.
      What’s funny is the Scottish fans, and particularly their pundits do exactly what they moan about the English doing, namely overhyping things way too early.
      It’s hypocritical, and more depth needed3015

      • F

        Reply posted by Fraziel, today at 10:21

        "Congratulations coming 22nd out of 24.What they should learn is a slightly improving team having a bore draw doesn’t mean they have new superstars or that they’re miles better than they actually are.What’s funny is the Scottish fans, and particularly their pundits do exactly what they moan about the English doing, namely overhyping things way too early.It’s hypocritical, and more depth needed"Fraziel replied: I agree but it wasn’t a nire draw. Best nil nil I’ve seen. The Scots are arrogant and have a superiority complex, just like the English, and they get carried away with hysterics. Its embarrassing. But the English are the world masters at it,winds everyone up all over the world. The biggest underachievers in world football too1329

      More replies (12)

    • R

      Comment posted by Reidme82, today at 10:51

      Great to see us back at a tournament, however people who say that it would have been the most successful Scottish team if they got past that group stages, forget that when we qualified for Euro92 only 8 teams got through to the tournament and in euro 96 it was 16.130

      • D

        Reply posted by Dr Prod, today at 11:16

        "Great to see us back at a tournament, however people who say that it would have been the most successful Scottish team if they got past that group stages, forget that when we qualified for Euro92 only 8 teams got through to the tournament and in euro 96 it was 16."Dr Prod replied: Yes, it actually seems it’s more difficult to not qualify from the Euros groups now.
        One win from 3 for Germany, Portugal didn’t even win a group game in ‘16.
        However, Scotland’s record at tournaments is atrocious.81

    • R

      Comment posted by Robert Arthur, today at 12:02

      I actually think that exiting gives us a real chance to take stock. We have some fantastic players (relatively speaking), and we have what I was used to as a kid: a great midfield. However, we got a point against England and the country went crazy. We have a thin squad, so Clarke should be given as much time as he needs.
      Good luck to Wales and England.131

    • S

      Comment posted by Sirrantsalot, today at 11:46

      Getting a draw against a very poor England team isn’t something to aspire to. One ‘decent’ performance from Gilmour (allegedly – I didn’t see him dictating play) doesn’t make him a superstar. First time I noticed him he was failing twice to tackle Mount, who held him off like the boy he is.

      Basically you have the same problem as always – loads of passion, no talent.208

      • D

        Reply posted by DavidBuchan, today at 12:11

        "Getting a draw against a very poor England team isn’t something to aspire to. One ‘decent’ performance from Gilmour (allegedly – I didn’t see him dictating play) doesn’t make him a superstar. First time I noticed him he was failing twice to tackle Mount, who held him off like the boy he is. Basically you have the same problem as always – loads of passion, no talent."DavidBuchan replied: So the opposite to England – lots of talent, no passion?114

      More replies (2)

    • L

      Comment posted by LeicesterLee, today at 10:19

      At least they have some good young players to build on for the future and they will have gained some experience from it and desire to do better next time eh153

      • D

        Reply posted by David, today at 11:46

        "At least they have some good young players to build on for the future and they will have gained some experience from it and desire to do better next time eh"David replied: They have, but half the squad won’t be around by the next Euros. The problem is you need more than 2 or 3 good players, you need a squad of them. All the Goalkeepers in the squad won’t be around so need to find a good young keeper from somewhere. Need to start looking to see if any young up and coming players have distant Scottish ancestry33

      More replies (6)

    • S

      Comment posted by Shed_66, today at 13:01

      Concentrate on your own game rather than being distracted by your hatred of England.
      It does you no credit, nor does it help you.132

    • I

      Comment posted by Ian, today at 12:19

      Why does this turn into a Scotland vs England debate… the teams have absolutely nothing to do with each other! Arguing for the sake of it by the looks of things. Bottom line – Scotland were not good enough in front of goal to deserve to progress and got it wrong tactically against a Croatia side with one of the world’s best midfielders, who are a much better side than most gave them credit for.100

      • H

        Reply posted by Half more than Indio, today at 12:30

        "Why does this turn into a Scotland vs England debate… the teams have absolutely nothing to do with each other! Arguing for the sake of it by the looks of things. Bottom line – Scotland were not good enough in front of goal to deserve to progress and got it wrong tactically against a Croatia side with one of the world’s best midfielders, who are a much better side than most gave them credit for."Half more than Indio replied: They very recently made the world cup final. I think it’s safe to say the majority realise they aren’t too bad20

    • F

      Comment posted by footballcrazy, today at 10:30

      Scotland can look at Wales and Belgium and realise that changes are needed in the sfa to grow more gilmours and mcginns. Scotland do very well in the olympics and so there is no reasin why they cant do better in football. Scotland should be on swedens level realistically.100

      • T

        Reply posted by Tombsy, today at 10:47

        "Scotland can look at Wales and Belgium and realise that changes are needed in the sfa to grow more gilmours and mcginns. Scotland do very well in the olympics and so there is no reasin why they cant do better in football. Scotland should be on swedens level realistically."Tombsy replied: Och, lets be honest here..gilmour and mcgin have matured in the premier league. Ill bet if you ask them to sign to any Scottish club you would be somewhat disgusted or hurt by their response.. they are staying AND maturing in England which is pretty much the same as the rest of the squad. Scottish football has noting to offer the top players in any league145

      More replies (6)

    • K

      Comment posted by Ken Finewell, today at 15:14

      Dinosaur football. Picking passion over talent. Not playing the youth. Pet players undroppable. Clarke got it badly wrong. McTominay and O’Donnell are not good enough neither is the likes of Mckenna, Marshall etc. The u21s are packed full of talented, technical modern ball playing footballers. Integrate them and play a modern attacking brand of football. St Johnstone 2 cups and no representation.81

    • G

      Comment posted by Guyser, today at 14:51

      Is there a clinical goal scorer out there with a trace of Scottish blood in them? Services required!81

    • P

      Comment posted by PaidBot, today at 13:32

      “ Scotland at least posed much more of a threat when they deployed two strikers” ?

      Dykes isn’t a striker, he’s barely a football player. He’s on a par with the equally hapless Iwelumo.

      Keeper takes possession and punts it up the park to no one, correction, straight back to the opposition. That’s not football.

      To pick your game up against the English and then revert to type, that embarrassing.81

    • C

      Comment posted by Chippelsea, today at 10:25

      Steve Clarke is their best manager for a long time, good man147

      • C

        Reply posted by Colin, today at 13:58

        "Steve Clarke is their best manager for a long time, good man"Colin replied: Steve Clarke’s apparent strength is his organisational ability. If you analyse the Croatia game properly, tactically it was a shambles. We don’t have the players to compete with the likes of Croatia on a technical level, therefore attitude and organisation are critical. Attitude can’t be faulted but the organisation and tactics are sadly lacking41

    • R

      Comment posted by rightgudsoart, today at 14:00

      You watch Hungary a side with a squad worth a quarter of Scotland’s and they showed no respect to France or Germany. None of this hoof to a useless huddy and 3 cb’s. Their manager is dynamic and didn’t sit on his hole watching the likes of Armstrong and Dykes do the square root of heehaw. Clarke out. I’d put in John Collins before Clarke screws up Qatar as he will.71

    • C

      Comment posted by Charles Mellon, today at 13:17

      “but they will always have Wembley”. Therein lies the problem. Failed again, but got a point against England and a jolly around Leicester Sq. That’s all that matters for some.93

    • P

      Comment posted by PogChamp, today at 13:10

      It’s all about being brave and nothing else matters. Put in a brave performance, lose, let everyone tell you how brave you were, go home watch braveheart and everything is fine again. I spent 10 years in Scotland and this is how they think. Their teams and the country is stuck in the past.

      Don’t be brave, be better.82

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