Scotland Falls Flat In Euro Opener
Source: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
It all started well and good. 12,000 strong belted out Flower of Scotland as a moment 23 years in the making had finally come. The fans, the players, and the nation were full tilt. You could not have asked for a better entrance into Euro 2020 if you were a Scotsman.
Yes, there was a massive amount of skepticism when the starting 11 was announced. Steve Clarke chose to go with the lads he's familiar with rather than take a chance with their youth. Players like Gilmour, Adams, Turnbull, Forrest and Patterson were all left out. That doubt, however, was briefly put in the back pocket as the pageantry began.
Say what you will about the selections, but with Tierney out with a last-minute injury, Clarke didn't want to take any chances when it came to the defensive end of things.
The game started with a thundering roar from the Hampden Park faithful and was met with a thundering response from the Scots. It was very clear from the get-go that Andy Robertson was going to be leaned on heavily to provide the offence. With Dykes and Christie upfront, it was never going to be an easy task for Scotland to get the quality they needed in the final third to gain the upper hand.
With that said, Scotland created chances. There were many spots in the first half where they could have put the ball in the back of the net, but it just never happened.
Aston Villa midfielder, John McGinn, was the workhorse that Scotland needed in the middle to keep some sort of stability in the heart of the pitch. It was obvious that nerves were a massive factor with the lack of confidence in moving the ball. Armstrong and O'Donnell provided little to nothing from the right side.
Despite the lack of finishing and confidence in the midfield, Scotland was still in a good spot. Robertson missed a glorious opportunity, but for the most part, they didn't seem to be in any obvious danger. However, as the tides turned Scotland couldn't stand firm as Patrik Schick finished off a beautiful header in the dying moments of the half.
It was for sure a gut punch, but not a death blow. And the fans made sure that their boys knew they were still behind them, heading into the second half.
The introduction of Che Adams was a massive boost as he made more of an impact on the game in his few minutes of play at the end of the first 45 than Christie did the whole half. It's clear he should have started.
As the second half began, there was still a sense of optimism. Scotland was only down one, they controlled the play for the most part, and it seemed as though they were starting to settle in. But after Hendry, who almost scored in the first half, took an ill-advised shot, Scotland found themselves on their heels, and Schick buried an incredible strike from a remarkable distance.
You can blame Hendry for the dumb idea to shoot with no support behind him. Or Marshall for being so far off his line. But realistically, it was just a fantastic goal from the Bayer Leverkusen marksman. It's a highlight that will be played on repeat for a very long time.
But as beautiful as it was, it was effectively the death blow for Scotland.
This leads to Clarke's decision-making. He'll surely be rung out for not playing Gilmour when they needed offence. Considering the amount of press the youngster had gotten in the lead-up of the tournament, it is shocking his number didn't get called. They were in desperate need of some inspiration, and Gilmour would've been the most likely to provide that.
2-0 was the final. A disappointing result to say the least. They'll need something of a miracle if they hope to advance now. The Czechs were the only team they had a good chance at beating, and with their oldest rival waiting for them at Wembley, Scotland is going to have to pull out all the tricks if they have any hope of survival.