A lot has changed in the 23 years since Scotland’s last apearance at a major tournament, but some things remain the same.
Gegenpressing may have only been a glint in Jurgen Klopp’s eye back in 1998. VAR was yet to be dreamed up by those who love drawing squiggly lines on a pitch.
What hasn’t changed though is the need for that killer instinct in both penalty boxes.
Scotland have long had a succession of fine midfielders. From the 1990s heroes of John Collins, Paul Lambert and Gary McAllister, now read John McGinn, Scott McTominay & Co. Throw in a wing-back as good as Andy Robertson and there will often be plenty opportunities created, as they did against Czech Republic at Hampden Park in their Euro 2020 opener.
The problem, as always, is finishing off those chances.
One goal in three games the last time Scotland were at a European Championships 25 years ago. Two goals in three games a couple of years later in France at the World Cup. Neither from a striker.
This may be a new team carrying the hopes of a nation once more, but the lack of a cutting edge remains.
Lyndon Dykes, not exactly prolific in the Championship with QPR, was selected to lead the line with Ryan Christie playing just off him. Che Adams, a Premier League menace with Southampton, was introduced at half-time with Scotland chasing the game and immediately showed his quality, but that elusive bit of class evaded Steve Clarke’s men when it really mattered.
Dykes steered wide early on from Robertson’s low cross when he should at least have got it on target, before the captain himself had missed the best chance of the first half, shooting too close to Tomas Vaclik’s
They were made to pay. For all of Scotland’s endeavour, Patrik Schick showed them how it should be done, opening the scoring with a brilliant header angled beyond David Marshall’s desperate reach to give the Czech’s a half-time lead. It was a stunning finish, but it came from a passage of play which had seen Scotland fail to adequately clear their lines on numerous occasions, and allow a cross to come in too easily.
If that was brilliant, though, Schick again demonstrated the class which took him to Roma earlier in his career with a stunning 50-yard effort which sailed over Marshall’s head and into the net.
What Marshall was doing 40 yards out of his own goal is a mystery even Scooby Doo and the gang would struggle to solve. The Celtic man certainly didn’t do anything to dispel the old fears about Scottish goalkeepers. Another horror show on the biggest of stages.
Dykes was twice denied as the hosts pushed for a way back into the game. He had to do better with his second chance, which he allowed Vaclik to block with his foot with a corner of the goal gaping.
A top-class striker would have put that away.
The result was harsh on Scotland. Robertson, Grant Hanley, Adams and McGinn had been excellent, but it isn’t always enough at the highest level where fine margins really matter.