Scott McKenna says his first outing at a major finals was a bittersweet experience as Scotland exited Euro 2020 with a 3-1 defeat to Croatia.
Former Aberdeen defender McKenna, who now plays for Nottingham Forest, was brought on as a first half substitute in place of Grant Hanley but could not prevent Steve Clarke’s men going down to the defeat which knocked them out of their first major finals in 23 years.
The Scots needed a victory to progress to the last 16, with Callum McGregor giving them hope on the stroke of half-time by cancelling out Nikola Vlasic’s opener, before second half goals from Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic proved their undoing.
McKenna felt his side was guilty of missing big chances throughout the group campaign, and he said: “We definitely see it as an opportunity missed, especially with the chances we missed in the two games.
“It was probably sloppy goals we lost that cost us in the end. It’s bitterly disappointing and we probably could have done a bit better.
“I’m mostly just gutted, to be honest. After coming on after about half an hour, then getting ourselves back in the game just before half-time, we went out hoping for a big second half – but it just didn’t work out that way.
“We had some chances. But ultimately their quality got the better of us, in the end.
“I think we probably lacked a bit of experience. Croatia are a team who have been on this stage many times before.
“They probably showed that better than us tonight, knowing how to manage the game, getting the goals at the right time. That got the better of us.
“But on Friday night we showed we can go toe-to-toe with some of the best teams.
“It’s just about doing that consistently in this format.
“But it’s a learning experience for everyone and hopefully, going forward, we put all these things together and it puts us in a better place.”
McKenna says his first outing at a major finals has made him hungry for more, adding: “I was delighted to get on the pitch. Being part of the squad and how good the group is, it has been an amazing experience for me already.
“To get on the pitch I was delighted. The result and my performance probably didn’t go the way I would have liked it to, but hopefully I can personally learn from that and use it going forward.
“It’s a great group of lads, a great manager and coaching staff. The full thing has been enjoyable for me and hopefully it’s something I can experience again.”
McKenna feels the Scots have a bright future under Clarke, with their efforts to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar continuing in the next round of qualifiers in September.
The 24-year-old added: “It was one of the things the manager said after the game that we will be disappointed, but we have got to make sure this is just the start of Scotland qualifying for major tournaments – it’s not the end.
“I think when we look back at it, it will be a positive experience and we will want to do it all over again. Hopefully we can do that.
“We have seen how good the levels were against England the other night.
“Nathan Patterson has been tremendous every day in training and we saw the quality of David Turnbull against Holland as well. He has probably not played as much since then as he would have liked, but it’s exciting going forward.
“We have also got to remember we have no players in their 30s, really, that are going out.
“Andy Robertson is still young, as is John McGinn. Our big players are still at a great age and they will still be with us for many tournaments going forward.
“As much as the young ones are exciting as well, it’s good we’ve still got the more senior ones about as well.”