Euro 2020: Scotland 0-2 Czech Republic - 'Question time as bitter reality hits'

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Euro 2020 on the BBC
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From the moment Patrik Schick curled in the Czech Republic's match-settling second from the distant Asda car park - or thereabouts - those Scotland T-shirts with the uplifting words from Baccara, worn with pride by the home fans, started to take on a deeply ironic, if not self-mocking, tone.

Nobody was in the mood to boogie anymore, save for the victors and their pocket of supporters away in a corner of Hampden.

As sure as the sun will come up on Tuesday, 'Schickner!' will appear in headlines in newspapers all over the land, accompanied, of course, by pictures of David Marshall flapping in his net like tomorrow morning's catch and other images of the Tartan Army in turmoil.

The Scotland fans at Hampden were broken, the Scotland fans at home were broken, the young Scots allowed to watch the game at school were surely broken, too.

Triple maths would have been less painful than this. Isaac Newton, kids. What goes up must come down. Marshall will know all about that one, too.

Steve Clarke would rather gouge out his own eyes than betray feelings of weakness, but after many good days this was a horrendous one for him.

Back in October, Scotland beat the Czechs 1-0 at Hampden with one shot on target and a possession percentage in the 30s. Jaroslav Silhavy's team battered them late on, but the Scots didn't buckle. That was peacetime football, though. This was the real thing. Tournament stuff. Big-time.

Clarke went with Lyndon Dykes from the start and it didn't work. Normally excellent in the air, Dykes lost the aerial battle. When a great chance came his way, he missed.

Things improved when Che Adams appeared, but the goal remained elusive. Adams will surely start against England - one of many changes, you sense.

The manager, so sure-footed over the past year, went with Ryan Christie and that didn't work either. Why he chose this day of all days to leave Callum McGregor out of a team in which he's been a mainstay for so long might be a question that troubles Clarke for a while to come.

He kept faith with Stephen O'Donnell at right wing-back but the Motherwell man looked spooked from early on and didn't contribute. Scotland posed little threat down that side of the pitch until James Forrest appeared.

Those selections failed and so, too, did his go-to men. Scott McTominay and John McGinn were not the forces in midfield that Scotland needed them to be. Too many important players picked a bad day to deliver a subdued performance.

'Scots banged on door that just wouldn't open'

This was a masterclass in Scottish football angst, beginning even before Schick had carved his name into the soul of every Tartan Army supporter.

When news filtered through that Kieran Tierney was out through injury, the clouds above Glasgow seemed to darken suddenly. That was Scotland's best defender and most dynamic attacker gone. Gulp.

To be a goal down 42 minutes into a game that all of Scotland had waited 23 years for was bad enough, but then there was the added, and excruciating, torture of Clarke's team banging on a door that just would not open.

Jack Hendry's shot came slapping back off the Czech crossbar. Tomas Kalas deflected an effort over his own goalkeeper's head only to see Tomas Vaclik's extra-long levers paw it away. Stuart Armstrong had a shot deflected on to the roof of the net. Dykes missed a sitter - or had it saved by Vaclik. McTominay lashed one over, Forrest was denied from close-range.

The Czechs were 2-0 ahead by then, of course. If Scotland had chances, so, too, did Silhavy's men. Lots of them. Vladimir Darida of Hertha Berlin had three good opportunities in the second half alone. Schick could and probably should have had a hat-trick.

Not that it mattered, for the Bayer Leverkusen striker had done more than enough damage. Two goals in 10 minutes either side of the break did for Scotland.

Both were brilliantly finished; both had Scottish self-examination at the heart of them. A cross delivered without defensive pressure by Tomas Coufal was met by Schick, who soared above Grant Hanley and ahead of Liam Cooper to glance a terrific header into the corner. Too easy.

The second? Have we already seen the goal of the tournament? Perhaps, but while the rest of Europe will marvel at Schick's extraordinary finish, all of Scotland will look at Hendry's part in losing possession up the field.

They will look, too, at Marshall's seriously unwise decision to move so far into no-man's land without the pace in his legs to beat a retreat. He can't have expected what was coming next, but you still have to ask: What was he doing so far from shore?

'From giddy exuberance to bitter reality'

At 2-0 the life went out of Hampden. Earlier, it had been a bastion of hope, a raucous place that belied the attendance of around 9,000. They made a racket of three and four times that number.

When the rumours about Tierney's injured hardened into fact there was a momentary lull in the jamboree, a kind of hush as the locals took it in.

Moping? For a second, yes, but mostly this was a party pre-match, a noisy celebration before Scotland even emerged and an even greater commotion when they did, Andy Robertson leading them with a face of steely focus, the others following in his wake, many of them smiling, applauding and waving, before the drowning.

The giddy exuberance has now been replaced with something more grounded in bitter reality. A trip to Wembley awaits. The blood will be stirred, of course. This was a brutal day for Scotland but such is the nature of this championship, they're still alive. They're hurting, but they're not without hope.

A point against England and three against Croatia and they're through. A defeat against England and a win against Croatia might still be enough to secure one of those third-place qualifying spots.

After losing 2-0 to the Czechs, such talk might seem fanciful, almost delusional, but it's something that Clarke has to cling to now. He has to be upbeat. What's the alternative? To join us in footballing purgatory? He'll take a pass on that.

He'll pray that Tierney is fit and the next question we need to know the answer to is how brave will he be at Wembley?

It's unlikely he'll be bold enough to play the rookie Nathan Patterson at right-wing back, but Forrest must be the favourite for that position now. McGregor reinstated in place of Christie, Ryan Fraser in for Armstrong, Adams picked ahead of Dykes.

That would be five changes - Tierney's return plus four more reflecting what went wrong at Hampden. Clarke spoke about hindsight in his post-match news conference.

It's foresight he needs now - and a performance against England that will lift the badly bruised morale of his team and the nation.

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