The brutal truth behind Scotland’s Euro 2024 heartbreak

Steve Clarke demands answers over penalty call after Scotland’s Euro 2024 exit

scotland football, scott mctominay, steve clarke, euro 2024, john mcginn, the brutal truth behind scotland’s euro 2024 heartbreak

At least Steve Clarke could point to progress, of sorts. “We scored two goals this time, we only scored one the last time,” said Clarke, as the Scotland manager reflected on another group stage exit from a major tournament. In other ways, Clarke made it easy to identify where the problem was. It summed up Scotland’s lack of cutting edge at Euro 2024 that the two goals they did score went in off opposition players, in Antonio Rudiger’s own goal and Fabian Schar deflecting Scott McTominay’s shot past his goalkeeper.

If hosts Germany and Euro 2024 will miss the Tartan Army and the atmosphere the travelling number brought to the tournament, the same cannot be said of Scotland on the pitch. If three games brought one point and an early exit, the same as three years ago at Euro 2020, Scotland can hardly pretend to be hard done by. Their 17 shots at Euro 2024 is the joint-lowest ever recorded in a group stage - only Northern Ireland, in 2016, showed less attacking threat and even they managed what Scotland could not and reached the knockouts.

And so the fear before the tournament that Scotland did not have enough goals in the side came to pass, as an absence of creativity and attacking ambition became brutally apparent as well. In a must-win game against Hungary, Scotland failed to have a shot until the hour. Holding out for one moment - in this case, appealing for a penalty as Stuart Armstrong went to ground in the box along with Hungary’s Willi Obran - was a gamble Clarke took and explained Scotland’s passive start. “It was a one-goal game,” he said. For him, it hinged on a “100 per cent” penalty.

Yet Scotland barely mustered enough chances for one goal across three games. An xG of 0.9 is the lowest of all sides at Euro 2024, the three efforts they managed on target is indicative of a lack of ideas and imagination. If Scotland’s past at major tournaments carries a history of nearly-moments, glorious failure this was not. In the Group A decider, Scotland’s best moments were Armstrong’s appeals and a couple of late glimpses that fell in the Hungary box. There was the same heartbreak of Kevin Csoboth’s 100th minute winner but it’s unlikely two points would have been enough anyway.

Clarke will face criticism for not affording more of an opportunity to Lawrence Shankland, the 30-goal Hearts striker who saw just 25 minutes off the bench at the tournament. Scotland’s blunt attack was not helped by John McGinn having a poor Euros. McGinn is the top scorer in the squad with 18 but has not found the net for his country since November and was brought off by Clarke with Scotland needing a winner. Scott McTominay was the hero in qualifying and produced the opener against Switzerland, but ‘own goal’ has been Scotland’s top scorer in 2024.

Perhaps McTominay’s seven goals in qualifying covered underlying faults, with the midfielder’s return proving unsustainable in the long run. Scotland needed more. “We had a lot of the ball and we didn’t create enough, but we created enough to score a goal,” Clarke said. “Is that why we’re out of the tournament? Well we scored two goals this time, we only scored one the last time. It’s something for me to go away and think about, speak to my coaches and try to work on something going into the future on how we can score more goals at certain times in the game.”

scotland football, scott mctominay, steve clarke, euro 2024, john mcginn, the brutal truth behind scotland’s euro 2024 heartbreak
Clarke consoles Scott McTominay after defeat to Hungary (Getty Images)

But this is also an issue that goes above Clarke and beyond tactics. Could Clarke set up his side any differently, given the lack of options at his disposal? When QPR forward Lyndon Dykes was ruled out of the Euros, Clarke’s alternatives were limited to calling up uncapped Bristol City forward in Tommy Conway and winger Lewis Morgan, who was not on anyone’s radar at New York Red Bulls. That Ben Doak, the 18-year-old winger with just a smattering of appearances for Liverpool, was close to making the squad despite not being fit shows how short Clarke’s list was.

scotland football, scott mctominay, steve clarke, euro 2024, john mcginn, the brutal truth behind scotland’s euro 2024 heartbreak
Dejected fans of Scotland after their Euro 2024 exit (EPA)

Scotland are not the only nation at Euro 2024 to be lacking a leading forward and goalscorer, but they were found to be woefully short of pace and ingenuity. Scotland showed character in the manner they bounced back against Switzerland, following the opening 5-1 defeat to Germany, but that can only get you so far. At international tournaments, contenders are defined by their weaknesses as much as their strengths and Scotland’s quality is spread too thinly among the team, with too many gaps to overcome.

It is a question that will need to go back to the Scottish Football Association, with the lack of new talent coming through an issue that has been covered by Scotland’s recent successes in qualifying. Scotland had the second-oldest squad at Euro 2024 with an average age of 28.3, and after a run of just one win in 12 matches it is becoming increasingly clear that this generation may have peaked 12 months ago.

scotland football, scott mctominay, steve clarke, euro 2024, john mcginn, the brutal truth behind scotland’s euro 2024 heartbreak
Scotland players appear dejected after defeat to Hungary (Bradley Collyer/PA Wire)

If Clarke brought the good times back to Scotland with successive appearances at major tournaments, their subsequent performances have only gone to show how far there still is to go.

OTHER NEWS

32 minutes ago

Kelowna real estate listings see rising number of vacant apartments for sale

32 minutes ago

Quebec construction holiday: 5 things to know about the tradition

32 minutes ago

Proposed class-action lawsuit filed over ‘catastrophic’ Calgary water main break

32 minutes ago

Person dies in Illinois from multi-state listeria outbreak possibly connected to sliced deli meats

32 minutes ago

Deaths in Illinois, New Jersey linked to listeria food poisoning from meat sliced at deli counters

32 minutes ago

VP Kamala Harris and Democratic donors discuss ‘urgent, emerging needs' in the race, with Biden campaign in crisis

32 minutes ago

Bruce Springsteen is officially a billionaire

32 minutes ago

What happens next if Joe Biden drops out of presidential race?

32 minutes ago

‘I think you’ll see a lot of places going down’: Restaurant owner suing CenterPoint warns of future blackouts

32 minutes ago

Las Vegas Sphere ‘blue screen of death’ image is fake

32 minutes ago

Photo of a man claiming to be responsible for the CrowdStrike outage in viral social media posts is fake

32 minutes ago

Coast Guard rescues people after vessel reportedly sank in Houston Ship Channel

32 minutes ago

Teen killed in shooting in Houston's South Side neighborhood

32 minutes ago

Judge denies former Rep. George Santos' motion to dismiss fraud charges

32 minutes ago

'Drill, baby, drill': What Donald Trump said about oil and gas during RNC speech

32 minutes ago

Sources: Condon's $9.25M bonus with Rockies ties MLB record

32 minutes ago

US health officials say a listeria outbreak linked to deli meat has killed two people and sickened more than two dozen

32 minutes ago

Heavy rain collapses part of ancient Michigan cave where 'The Great Train Robbery' was filmed

32 minutes ago

Two deaths linked to listeria food poisoning from meat sliced at deli counters

32 minutes ago

Bissell recalls 3.2M handheld steam cleaners across US over burn hazard

32 minutes ago

Trump says UAW president should be 'fired immediately'

32 minutes ago

Ed Sheeran sparks criticism for posing with Johnny Depp in new photo

32 minutes ago

Team Singapore’s monumental effort for Olympic glory

32 minutes ago

McIlroy, Woods, DeChambeau miss British Open cut

44 minutes ago

How to Fix a Windows Computer Impacted By the Global Microsoft Outage

44 minutes ago

Poland's decision accelerates delivery of F-16s to Ukraine

44 minutes ago

He’s captained Australia. But how did he perform in the HSC?

44 minutes ago

Cash is yielding 5% and many Americans are still missing out. How to juice your savings

44 minutes ago

Pogacar clinches stage 19 in Tour de France with attack on final climb

44 minutes ago

AFL Round 19: Adelaide Crows win a thriller against Essendon, hitting the front with 51 seconds left at Docklands

44 minutes ago

Doug Hanzel adds another line to his unreal senior golf resume with Golfweek Pacific Northwest Senior title

44 minutes ago

Foreign secretary confirms lifting of UNRWA suspension

44 minutes ago

US appeals court orders judge to reconsider Biden ESG investing rule

44 minutes ago

2024 British Open: Full list of golfers who made the cut after Round 2

44 minutes ago

Fed judge tosses GOP challenge to Nevada’s mail-ballot counting rules: They ‘lack standing’

44 minutes ago

NBC’s Peacock 33% price hike to take effect ahead of 2024 Summer Olympics — here’s what to know

44 minutes ago

Mica Miller’s pastor husband says he tried to ‘resurrect’ her in the morgue: ‘Jesus did it. I had to try’

1 hour ago

Risk-averse organizations chose CrowdStrike for cybersecurity. Now its software is causing chaos

1 hour ago

Two more bird flu cases reported in Colorado, but elsewhere a study finds no asymptomatic infections

1 hour ago

Tech outage halts surgeries, medical treatments across the US

ALONGWALKER VIETNAM: Kênh khám phá trải nghiệm của giới trẻ, thế giới du lịch ALONGWALKER INDONESIA: Saluran untuk mengeksplorasi pengalaman para pemuda global