Scotland’s return to the international main stage began with disappointment as a Patrik Schick double steered the Czech Republic to a 2-0 victory.
Decisions from the Scottish Government may have meant Hampden could only have been at a fifth of its 50,000 capacity, but a noisy Scotland crowd pre-match were certainly making themselves heard – a bright start from the home side did wonders in contribution to the expectations.
McGinn had an effort blocked early on whilst some expert defending from former-Chelsea defender Tomáš Kalas did just enough to put Lyndon Dykes off converting an Andy Robertson cross.
Scotland’s greatest chance of the half though came on 34 minutes. Christie found the overlapping Robertson in acres of space as he broke into box, Vaclík reacted well to tip his shot over the bar but the captain might’ve been disappointed with his central effort.
Steve Clarke’s side would take a sickening blow on the brink of half-time. Patrik Schick rose above both Hanley and Cooper to smartly direct a Vladimír Coufal cross into the bottom corner.
Looking to the bench at the interval, on came Che Adams to bolster the Scots attack, although it was the away side who would go close on two occasions shortly after.
In search of the equalising goal, Scotland just couldn’t quite get that slice of luck in the final third. The home crowd held their breath as a Czech clearance was cleared off their own goal-line by the keeper. Jack Hendry would skim the top of the bar moments later.
Perhaps feeling confident from his prior effort Hendry would take a another pop from range on 52 minutes – needless to say it did not have the same effect.
Cannoning into the crowd of bodies the ball rebounded all the way back to Schick on the half-way line who would spot David Marshall miles from his area, stunningly lobbing the Derby stopper from just inside the home half.
The potential goal of the tournament was a blow that would deflate spirits to say the least. Scotland continued to create half-chances but in the end it came to no avail. Here are three things we learned:
No Tierney no party
We spoke previously about just how much this Scotland set-up relies on Kieran Tierney – today we got a unwelcome glimpse of how we play without him…
Defensively Liam Cooper filled into the back three without any real issues, and he was far from a weak link by that point of view, however on the front foot the Leeds United defender found it difficult to impact the game in the same fashion of the man he filled in for.
Tierney’s confidence in possession and ability to drive into space was sorely missed. When Scotland’s defenders had the ball more often that not they struggled to play a more forward-thinking pass and resulted to simple balls to either the wing-backs or a dropping midfielder. That pace in our transition just couldn’t be replicated.
Whilst this could also have been down to poor movement from McGinn and Armstrong, Scotland no doubt had a missing link they could have done with…
Hindered by stubbornness
It’s easy to see why fans have been left frustrated by some of the decisions today.
Steve Clarke’s 5-3-2 has been tried and tested as the go to formation for the national side. In all fairness more often than not it works to great effect as well.
Today though perhaps conveyed that at times we need to be more adaptable. In the first-half alone Lyndon Dykes competed in more aerial duels than any other player has in Euro 2020 so far. Though as the match went on the direct approach began to become a bit sussed out to say the least.
Clarke though stuck with the same set-up until almost the very end, taking until 79 minutes before swapping out Stephen O’Donnell for a more attacking option on the right to have more of a go. Almost in an instance the arriving James Forrest broke into the box and nearly created a goal from nothing.
Billy Gilmour, David Turnbull and Nathan Patterson may wonder why their services were deemed unneeded – especially considering a much more defensive Czech approach in the second-half would have allowed our more creative players to flourish.
All or nothing at Wembley
More than anything today’s loss means Scotland will almost definitely have to take something from the crunch-tie against England on Friday night.
The reaction from players and staff at full-time was very much about still trying to stay positive and qualify for the next round, it might be an uphill task, but taking a point from London would be a huge step.
In that instance the tartan army also should cheer on the Czechs against Croatia in the 5pm kick-off – a win for the Croats would take everyone else in the group to three points and risk Scotland falling behind. A draw wouldn’t be the end of the world either.
A win for Scotland on matchday three then would take us to four points, hypothetically ahead of Croatia on either zero or one and therefore in a steady position for qualification. We’re of course being ambitious, but it’s important just to know where we stand.
Due to four of the six third placed teams processing Scotland can technically still lose at Wembley and progress – but we’d need to keep a very close eye on the tournament’s other games – and defeat a tricky Croatia side in the final match.
Featured Image Credit National World