IT turns out major tournament football hasn’t changed all that much over the 23 years since the Scotland men’s national team last participated.
You still get punished for the same kinds of errors. Without a clinical edge to affect games at key moments, the opportunity to collect points tends to be swept away in a tide of disappointment.
It was a truth recognised by captain Andy Robertson as he addressed Monday’s painfully deflating 2-0 home defeat to the Czech Republic.
Andy Robertson was unable to lead Scotland to the winning Euro 2020 start the nation craved
The Liverpool left-back was Scotland’s best player in the Group D encounter, yet might still wish he had placed a first-half drive further away from Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.
Then there was Vaclik’s two saves from Lyndon Dykes, the Jack Hendry strike that hit the bar and Stuart Armstrong’s deflected effort that looped onto the roof the net. Scott McTominay also fired too high and substitute James Forrest had an effort blocked as Scotland’s search for a response became ever more desperate.
Steve Clarke’s men didn’t play particularly well for much of Monday’s encounter. But they had opportunities to change the outcome. And they didn’t take them.
Reflecting on the 90 minutes, Robertson knows that aspect simply has to change ahead of Friday’s trip to meet England at Wembley.
In his post-match interview Robertson fronted up to the several chances Scotland passed up
‘It’s hard to put your finger on it just now,’ said Robertson. ‘Everyone in the country wanted us to get off to a good start.
‘We were confident and excited going into the game and I think it comes down to not taking our chances.
‘When you look back on the game you can’t say we have not created. We’ve had some really good chances that, on another day, we would have done better with. And if we had done better then it’s a different game.
‘It’s a tough lesson in our first game (at a major tournament) in a very long time – that at this level you have to take your chances. The Czech Republic did that, we didn’t, and unfortunately that’s why we were on the wrong end of the result.’
Patrik Schick gave the Czechs a cutting edge in the most spectacular manner. His first goal before half-time was good enough, getting the better of both Liam Cooper and Grant Hanley to plant a terrific header beyond David Marshall.
What followed on 52 minutes was simply astonishing. Jack Hendry’s decision to shoot from 25 yards was maybe not the wisest, with Stephen O’Donnell available on the right. But the centre-back could not have foreseen what followed when his effort was blocked.
Schick took over and, from a fraction inside the Scotland half, launched an incredible strike. The back-tracking David Marshall knew he was in trouble. Confirmation arrived as the ball dropped into the net just out of his reach.
‘With the height of us, we shouldn’t concede from second balls or set pieces,’ admitted Robertson, reflecting on the opening goal.
‘We were good at clearing the set piece but you’ve still got to pick up your man and defend (the second phase).
Patrick Schick opened the scoring for Czech Republic with a header just before half-time
‘It was a good header but we need to be a bit stronger and braver with our line. We could have been a bit higher to make it more difficult.
‘We started the second half well, we hit the bar and had a couple of good chances and then Jack Hendry has a shot that’s blocked.
‘Marshy has to be in that (advanced) position because if there’s a ball in behind he’s in the perfect position. It’s a one in a million shot unfortunately and we can’t lie, it knocked the stuffing out of us at that point.
‘But after that we still created chances. James had a couple, Scott McTominay had one. If you get one, you get it back to one and the crowd gets a lift and it’s a different game.
‘Going forward we just need to be more clinical and if we do that we’ve got a good chance.’
The striker doubled his side’s lead with a 50-yard lob over Scotland keeper David Marshall
Midfielder John McGinn insisted Scotland can’t let gloom linger as they seek at least a point against England that could generate new hope of progression.
‘I don’t think it’s a reality check,’ he argued when asked about Monday’s result. ‘Overall we played pretty well, there are things we can improve on, but it’s the first game of the tournament.
‘We’ve got two games to fix what we need to fix and it’s important we don’t sulk too much. We need to do it the hard way now. To give ourselves a chance to get out of this group, we know we need to get at least a point on Friday.
‘We know what we need to do, we need to get something at Wembley, it is our own fault as we had an opportunity to get a good result today. But we can either sulk about it or we can roll our sleeves up and go and put on a performance and get a result that we are capable of.
‘I think there was enough in the game for us to be positive about, we created those chances so it’s just about taking them and hopefully they will go in on Friday.’
Midfielder John McGinn insisted Scotland can’t let gloom linger as they seek at least a point against England
Scotland set out with Dykes supported by Ryan Christie up front and a midfield in which McGinn and Stuart Armstrong flanked Scott McTominay.
‘I felt in the first half we struggled to get myself and Stuart on the ball,’ added McGinn.
‘We certainly did that in the second half a wee bit more, but Schick came up with an excellent finish. That was a bit of a hammer blow and you need to try and come back. You have a mountain to climb and need to score two goals.
‘We gave it our all and certainly had chances to do that, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way. We did play alright, 2-0 flattered them a wee bit. But they found quality at the right moments. We need to find it on Friday.’