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Heartache for Scotland as Euro 2020 campaign ends with 3-1 loss to Croatia

Callum McGregor scores Scotland's first tournament goal since 1998.

Scotland’s Euro 2020 campaign is over after losing  3-1 to Croatia in a game they had to win to progress from Group D.

Steve Clarke’s side were bidding to make history by becoming the first Scotland outfit to progress from the group stages of a major tournament.

It wasn’t to be as the Scots dream evaporated in a whimper with a poor second half display.

The aggression, tempo and control so effective in the 0-0 draw against England at Wembley were largely absent on a night of disappointment at Hampden.

It is now 11 tournaments for Scotland without qualifying for the next phase.

It was all square at half time after Callum McGregor hit a superb equaliser.

However Scots hopes were sunk by goals from Luka Modric and Ivan Peresic after the break.

Scotland had been rocked by a positive Covid-19 test return for Billy Gilmour on the eve of the must win clash.

The 20-year-old was a certain starter against Croatia following his superb performance in the 0-0 draw with England at Wembley.

Thankfully the other 25 players subsequently tested negative and none were identified as close contacts to the Chelsea midfielder.

Boss Clarke turned to Stuart Armstrong as replacement for Gilmour.

He opted against moving Scott McTominay from centre-back to midfield which would have  disrupted the back back line which was so impressive at Wembley.

Scotland fans during the Euro 2020 clash with Croatia at Hampden.

There was a place on the bench for Aberdeen summer signing Declan Gallagher.

Centre-back Gallagher, 30, had been one of the unlucky three as the 26 man squad was whittled down to 23 for match day against both Czech Republic and Croatia.

The defender had  played such a key role in the Euro 2020 play-off final defeat of Serbia to secure qualification.

Scotland began on the attack from the kick-off and won two  corner kick within the opening minute.

They came to nothing but it was an early, and important, statement of intent from the Scots in an all or nothing Group D showdown.

Scotland came close in the fifth minute when John McGinn delivered a dangerous cross towards the back post from the left flank.

Striker Che Adams raced to meet the cross but his outstretched boot was millimetres from connecting and keeper Livakovic pushed wide for another corner.

Scotland’s Che Adams goes close with a first half chance against Croatia.

Moments later Adams latched onto a headed knock-down from Lyndon Dykes and with the space to shoot unleashed a drive from 25 yards that flashed just wide.

Disaster struck in the 16h minute when Croatia went ahead when a searching diagonal cross by Josip Juranovic  from the right flank to the back post from was headed down by Ivan Perisic who climbed above Stephen O’Donnell.

His header found Nicola VLASIC who controlled the ball on his chest under pressure then rifled a left footed drive on the turn from 12 yards beyond David Marshall.

Croatia’s Nikola Vlasic opens the scoring against Scotland at Hampden in the Euro 2020 clash.
Vlasic celebrates following the goal. Picture by SNS.

The atmosphere was sucked out of Hamdpen with the Tartan Army stunned.

The silence didn’t last long as the supporters found their voice to rally the team.

Moments later Marshall brilliantly tipped over a 25 yard drive from Luka Modric, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner.

Scotland pushed on and John McGinn came close twice within a frantic 30 seconds.

First his header flashed across goal and was going inches wide of the far post but somehow Adams stretched out to connect and prevent the ball going out.

Luka Modric competes with Lyndon Dykes. Picture by SNS.

From the recycled play possession again came to McGinn but his low 15 yard shot was straight at the keeper.

Scotland suffered another set-back when centre-back Grant Hanley was taken off injured.

Former Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna, now at Nottingham Forest, was introduced as his replacement.

Croatia were dominating possession and finding too many pockets of space on the edge of the Scotland box.

In the 39th minute Perisic cut in from the left flank into the penalty area and unleashed a powerful shot that flew over Marshall’s bar.

Scotland levelled in the 42nd minute when a cross from Robertson by scrambled clear by  Demagoj Vida as far as Callum McGREGOR who took a touch with his left before unleased a superb 20 yard low drive with his right into the near corner beyond the despairing keeper.

In the first half Croatia had 69% of the possession to Scotland’s 31%.

However all that mattered was the score – after 45 minutes the dream of progressing from the groups remained very much alive.

Scotland’s Callum McGregor scores to make it 1-1 against Croatia in the Euro 2020 Group D showdown.
Callum McGregor celebrates after scoring. Picture by SNS.

Half-time: Scotland 1 Croatia 1

In the 53rd minute Marshall raced out to close down Gvardiol who was baring down on goal.

The two collided with both requiring treatment. Both were okay to continue.

Scotland’s David Marshall (left) makes a save against Josko Gvardiol during a Euro 2020 match against Croatia. Pic by SNS

Keeper Marshall came to the rescue in the 59th minute when a perfectly weighted dinked shot over the defence released Perisic in on goal.

Marshall blocked his vicious 10 yard drive. It was a vital save.

Scotland came close moments later when Robertson whipped in a cross to the back post.

McGinn did well to get in front of Gvardioc to meet the cross but under pressure and on the stretch he connected but the effort from five yards went just wide.

Croatia made it 2-1 in the 62nd minute courtesy of a moment of absolute genius from 2018 Ballon d’Or winner MODRIC.

The play-maker received a pass on the edge of the penalty area from Kovacic and curled a sublime effort with the outside of his right foot beyond Marshall.

David Marshall can’t get a hand on the strike as it sails into the top corner. Picture by PA.

Scotland now needed to score two goals without reply to progress. In other words – a miracle.

In the 70th minute McGregor unleashed a 25 yard drive but it flew well over.

Former Aberdeen attacker Ryan Fraser came on for Armstrong in a bid to save a Euro dream that was rapidly fading.

Within minutes of his introduction Fraser shot over from 25 yards.

Any slim hopes of turning this game around were brutally snuffed out in the 77th minute when no-one got near to PERISIC who rose up high to meet a corner kick and flick on a header beyond Marshall.

Scotland were going out with a whimper.

Full-time: Scotland 1 Croatia 3

Scotland: Marshall; McTominay, Hanley (McKenna 33), Tierney; O’Donnell (Patterson 84) , Armstrong (Fraser 70), McGregor, McGinn, Robertson; Dykes, Adams (Nisbet 84)

Subs: Gordon, McLaughlin, Christie, Fleck, Gallagher, Cooper, Turnbull, Nisbet, Patterson, Forrest.

Croatia: Livakovic, Perisic (Rebic 81), Lovren, Kovacic, Modric, Brozovic, Vlasic (Ivanusec 76), Petkovic (Kramaric 70), Vida, Juranovic, Gvardiol (Barisic 71)

Subs: Kalinic, Sluga, Vrsaljko, Caleta-Car, Pasalic, Badelj, Brekalo, Budimir.