A missed opportunity: How Scotland's Euro 2020 exit will take a long time to get over

So near yet so far for Steve Clarke’s men and the Tartan Army after another exit at the group stages of an international tournament

Scotland fans react as they watch their team crash out of Euro 2020 after defeat against Croatia.
Scotland fans react as they watch their team crash out of Euro 2020 after defeat against Croatia.

The whole of Scotland awoke to a familiar feeling this morning, a feeling we specialise in more than any other nation. It's not a hangover – at least, not an alcohol-induced one – but more a dejecting deflation.

Hype surrounding last night's final Euro 2020 Group D match against Croatia had affected most of the population. Yet the Scottish team failed to live up expectations despite waiting 23 years to return to a major international competition. The 3-1 defeat left us bottom of the section and out of a tournament which promised so much.

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No wins, five goals conceded and only one goal scored in three group games against Czech Republic, England and Croatia tells its own story. There was no lack of effort from Scotland, it was simply quality missing in important moments.

Scotland supporters react to the defeat in the UEFA EURO 2020 Group D match between Croatia and Scotland at Hampden Park.

There remains an overriding feeling that Euro 2020 was a missed opportunity. That feeling lingers today and will do so for some time. At no point during the three group matches did it feel like the best Scottish XI was on the pitch.

Billy Gilmour s absence from the first match was a regret. Losing 2-0 to the Czechs left Scotland playing catch-up. Gilmour started against England at Wembley in what was an inspired display from Steve Clarke's team to earn a 0-0 draw.

That then raised hopes for the Croatia match, by which time Gilmour was in isolation having contracted Covid 19. Whoever won went through to the knockout phase and the Balkan nation showed their undoubted class on the night. Scotland were second-best.

Once the despondency subsides, there are some shoots of recovery emerging. Scotland have a talented crop of young players either in the squad or on the periphery. Lads like Gilmour, Nathan Patterson, David Turnbull, Allan Campbell, Lewis Ferguson, Daniel Mackay and Lewis Fiorini all harbour real potential.

Kieran Tierney, Scott McKenna, Andrew Robertson and teammates of Scotland look dejected following defeat against Croatia at Hampden Park.

The problem is the lack of a potent forward. Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes didn't find the net at Euro 2020 and youngsters behind them need more time to hone that killer instinct.

So Scotland must regroup and build on what they achieved by reaching the Euros. World Cup 2022 and Euro 2024 will be upon us soon, and those above need to be nurtured into international mainstays if the national team is to take that next step and finally reach the knockout phase.