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5 things we learned as Scotland’s Euro 2020 dreams are dashed by Croatia

Scotland have crashed out of Euro 2020 after a 3-1 defeat to Croatia at Hampden.

Steve Clarke’s side needed a win to become the first Scottish side to escape a group stage – but it ended in familiar disappointment for the Tartan Army.

Here the PA news agency takes a look at five things we learned from another night of despair for the national team.

Hope proves fatal again

The long-suffering Tartan Army prayed this would be the moment when they could witness their team march into the knockout rounds. For a moment it appeared fate might just be on their side as Callum McGregor rifled home to cancel out Nikola Vlasic’s early opener, sparking the promise of a second-half cavalry charge. But as has become depressingly familiar to the Scotland support, hope never lasts long. Instead, second-half strikes from Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic snuffed out the last flickering light on their bid for the last 16.

Selection regrets

Stephen O’Donnell impressed against England but struggled when up against the Czechs and Croatia
Stephen O’Donnell impressed against England but struggled when up against the Czechs and Croatia (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Steve Clarke deserves enormous credit for masterminding Scotland’s return to one of football’s biggest stages, but that does not mean he should escape scrutiny over his line-ups. The loss of Kieran Tierney on the eve of the Group D opener against the Czechs was a huge blow but the decision to start Stephen O’Donnell at right-back and leave out Che Adams and Billy Gilmour was questioned as their team missed a golden opportunity to get up and running. Both men were back in for the game at Wembley and won rave reviews. But O’Donnell looked out of his depth against the Croatians. The loss of Gilmour to a positive coronavirus test was another major blow, with Stuart Armstrong unable to replicate the composure shown by the Chelsea midfielder in London.

Mc the knife

Scotland’s list of European Championship scorers is not exactly lengthy but Callum McGregor can now add his name to an exclusive club which already includes Paul McStay, Gary McAllister, Brian McClair and Ally McCoist. His first international strike was Scotland’s first goal at a major finals since Craig Burley’s strike against Norway at France 98. How the Tartan Army would have loved to have seen Scott McTominay or John McGinn take up a membership invite…

Hope for the future

With a World Cup to aim for in 18 months, Scotland do not have long to pity themselves. Clarke’s side have plenty work to do to reach Qatar after a disappointing start to the qualifiers, but there is at least a silver lining to take from the past two weeks. Gilmour’s Wembley display suggests he has all the tools needed to be the midfield lynchpin for years to come. His former Rangers team-mate Nathan Patterson only got the final six minutes against Croatia but there are plenty who believe he is the next big thing. A lack of experience counted him out of more action this time but the Ibrox teenager will be targeting September’s qualifiers against Denmark, Moldova and Austria for his chance to make his mark.

Masterful Modric

Some critics claimed after Croatia’s first two games that it appeared Modric’s 35-year-old legs were starting to slow, but there was no sign of him slowing down in Glasgow. Gilmour’s absence robbed the Hampden crowd of the chance to see Croatia’s midfield master going head-to-head with Scotland’s dynamic young playmaker. But that did not stop Real Madrid’s former Ballon d’Or winner putting on a world-class show. There was the full display of his passing range and a highlight reel of twists, turns, dummies and feints which had the Scotland midfield on strings. And all of that was before he produced a sublime finish with the outside of his right foot to put Croatia back in front and slam the door shut on Scotland’s dreams of the last 16.

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