Steve Clarke vowed to make Scottish appearances at major championships a more regular occurrence in the immediate aftermath of Croatia’s 3-1 success at Hampden Park. The Scots knew victory against Croatia would take them into Euro 2020’s last 16 but, by Clarke’s own admission, were outplayed by Zlatko Dalic’s re-energised side. This marked a first finals for Scotland since the 1998 World Cup.
“At the moment it’s just disappointment we are out,” said the Scotland manager when asked about his emotions. “We wanted to stay in as long as we could. Disappointed we haven’t managed to get out of the group stage. You have to give me tonight to get over that and then a few days we will all sit down and take stock and look at our performances. I will look at my performance and the performance of the players and we will look at what we can do better in the future. And we’ll make sure it’s not 23 years before we go to the next tournament.”
Nikola Vlasic handed the Croats a 17th-minute lead before Callum McGregor fired home an equaliser. Luka Modric scored a wonderful goal of his own before turning provider for Ivan Perisic as Croatia endorsed their superiority during the second half. Croatia therefore took their place in the knockout phase.
“What you saw from Croatia tonight was third game experience,” Clarke added. “They knew how to play the third game in a tournament and they were more ready for it than we were. We possibly couldn’t hit the levels we hit on Friday against England. There is lots to learn for everybody, the head coach included.
“I’m disappointed the tournament has ended early for us but we have a lot to be happy about. The way we got there after 23 years gives us a lot to be happy about as well as the way we approached the tournament. We tried to compete and play as well as we could. But unfortunately we weren’t quite good enough to get out of the group stage and into the knockout round.”
Andy Robertson, the Scotland captain, echoed Clarke’s suggestion of a learning curve. “We’re one of the newbies to this, it’s been a long time coming and all of us will gain experience,” Robertson said. “We are a squad with a lot of potential and it’s important we build on this. We are a good team on our day. We can’t go another 23 years.”