Scotland boss Clarke 'proud' despite Euro 2020 exit

By Sports Desk June 22, 2021

Steve Clarke spoke of his pride after Scotland's first major tournament appearance in 23 years ended in a 3-1 defeat to Croatia.

But the 57-year-old also shared his belief that the disparity in tournament experience between the two sides was a decisive factor in the Scots exiting Euro 2020 at the group stage.

Having picked up just a point from their opening two games, both Scotland and Croatia needed a win at Hampden Park to secure a place in the round of 16.

And it was the visitors who got it, with Nikola Vlasic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic goals rendering a Callum McGregor equaliser - the first Scottish European Championship goal since Ally McCoist against Switzerland on June 18, 1996 - irrelevant.

Reflecting on the defeat, Clarke told ITV: "I'm proud of the players, the fact they managed to get here for the first time in 23 years, that was a big thing for the country, a big thing for this group of players. 

"I think you saw tonight a team that's tournament-hardened, Croatia, against a team at their first tournament in a long time. 

"We had a little spell just before half-time when we got the goal and looked exciting but Croatia are a top team and they showed that tonight."

Clarke declared a 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic in the first group game to be a decisive result in an all-too-brief Scotland campaign.

But he has backed his young squad to learn important lessons from their first major international tournament.

He added: "I think we'll go away and learn from it for sure. Obviously starting on the back foot with losing the first game is something you'd need to address in the next one because that set us up for a difficult one. 

"We left everything on the pitch at Wembley against England on Friday and couldn't quite get it tonight. 

"I think through all the three games they've acquitted themselves well, they've tried their best, showed some good qualities. Obviously, as a coach I don't like to concede so many goals, it's something we have to work on a little bit, but we can improve. 

"We've got young players in the squad, it's a relatively young group of players, and we want to improve together and hopefully we can do that."

Captain Andy Robertson echoed his manager's sentiments and urged his team-mates to turn this into a glorious era for Scotland by ensuring they also qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

He said: "We're a squad that still has a lot of potential, still relatively new to this and not a lot of caps between us and it's important we build on this. 

"It's important we don't take this as the high for this squad because we're a good team on our day and now we need to focus on September. 

"I know it's a long way away, we need to go away on holiday and finally rest, but come September we need to try and qualify for another tournament because it can't go another 23 years. 

"We want to be a team that qualifies for many tournaments and it become the norm that Scotland qualify. 

"That's in our own hands, but we'll think about that another day."

As for the Croatia skipper, Modric, he preferred to revel in his nation sealing safe passage to the knockout stages in second place behind England rather than the wonderful curler he netted to set up the win.

The Real Madrid midfielder is now his country's oldest and youngest ever scorer at a European Championship, having done so at both 35 years and 286 days and 22 years 73 days old.

He told Euro2020.com: "This goal means a lot to me but our play means more, from the beginning until the end. I am happy that my goal helped, but it's most important that the team won.

"We are happy because we played a big match and qualified for the next round.

"We were not happy with performances in the first two matches and we knew we could be better. When we play like this, we are dangerous to everyone."

Related items

  • Ferdinand says Dortmund sensation Bellingham ahead of Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes at his age Ferdinand says Dortmund sensation Bellingham ahead of Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes at his age

    Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand declared "we haven't seen" a player like Jude Bellingham at his age after the Borussia Dortmund teenager helped guide his team to a 4-1 Champions League win at Sevilla.

    Bellingham scored one and assisted one as Dortmund eased to victory in Spain on Wednesday, with other goals coming from Raphael Guerreiro, Karim Adeyemi and Julian Brandt, while Youssef En-Nesyri pulled one back for the hosts.

    Bellingham, 19, who captained the Bundesliga side, became just the second teenager to score in the first three games of a Champions League campaign.

    The only other player to achieve that feat is his former BVB team-mate Erling Haaland, who did so with Salzburg in the 2019-20 season.

    Bellingham's tally of three Champions League goals this season is already a joint-high among English teenagers for a single campaign, along with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, back in 2004-05.

    "What he's doing in his position at his age, we haven't seen," Ferdinand said, working as a pundit for BT Sport.

    "The best of our generation, [Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard, [Paul] Scholes, [Patrick] Vieira, Roy Keane, they weren't doing this.

    "He's still got to go on and prove it over a long period of time, but they weren't doing what he is doing right now [at the same age].

    "Influencing games at this level, captaining teams at this level, and mentally this kid's a beast."

    Fellow pundit and former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole added: "Along with Erling Haaland, he's the best young player in the world, that's for sure.

    "I watched him play for England over the two [Nations League] games [against Italy and Germany] and he was our best player.

    "His dad I believe was a semi-pro footballer so he's obviously been guided right... When we grew up with Frank [Lampard] and his dad was a footballer obviously, a top footballer, and Frank had this maturity about him... Bellingham's got that as well, coupled with his undoubted God-given talent and his drive, he's unstoppable."

    Bellingham has long been linked with a move back to England, having joined Dortmund from Birmingham City in 2020, with Liverpool, Manchester City, United and Chelsea all reportedly keeping an eye on developments, along with LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

    "One thing that's for sure – whoever gets him – is [his] temperament," Ferdinand said.

    "When you're making big transfers and big moves like that in the spotlight, temperament is a key element you need to get right. This kid has already proved that it isn't a question mark."

  • Vlahovic 'honoured' to play with Di Maria as Juventus clinch crucial win Vlahovic 'honoured' to play with Di Maria as Juventus clinch crucial win

    Dusan Vlahovic said he was "honoured" to play alongside Angel Di Maria after the Argentina international claimed three assists in Juventus' Champions League win over Maccabi Haifa.

    Adrien Rabiot scored a brace either side of Vlahovic's cool second-half finish as Juventus triumphed 3-1 to boost their hopes of progressing from Group H on Wednesday, but Di Maria was the star of the show.

    At 34 years and 233 days old, Di Maria became the oldest player to record a hat-trick of assists in the Champions League since data began in 2003-04, as well as the first player to do so for an Italian club.

    Since Di Maria made his first Champions League appearance in the 2007-08 season, meanwhile, only Lionel Messi can match his tally of 35 assists in the competition.

    Asked about Di Maria's influence by Sky Sports, Vlahovic said: "I don't know what to say. I am honoured to have the opportunity to play with him, to see him every day, to learn from him. I would like to make the most of my moments with him on the pitch."

    Vlahovic was pleased to see Juventus end a three-match losing streak in the Champions League, but saw room for improvement in his own performance.

    "I could do better and do more," he added. "I had to make better use of the assists of my team-mates, but we won. We have to improve and work with our heads down in silence.

    "Attackers live on goals. I am always focused on the team, then the goals come as a consequence. 

    "If I think I have to do something, I just put weight on myself and I don't do things with clarity. I have to be more calm and focused."

    Meanwhile, under-pressure Bianconeri coach Massimiliano Allegri praised Di Maria's display, but was concerned by his team's lack of control in the final 15 minutes.

    "Di Maria is good, the important thing is to get the ball to him, the first and second assists were of excellent craftsmanship," he said in his post-match news conference.

    "The boys immediately realised that you cannot not play for a quarter of an hour. The games must be closed earlier, this does not mean to stop playing, but to play less and be more bad.

    "We were too light, then the games are about psychology, and we risked 2-2. This doesn't have to happen.

    "The defensive phase is a mental issue. Everything seemed easy, we gave up as a team. We didn't foul [ahead of] their goal, that's not good. Goal difference will also be important."

    Looking ahead to next week's return fixture in Israel, two-goal hero Rabiot said: "We will have to be concentrated, but with this attitude, I am convinced that we will win. We must continue like this.

    "I'm happy to have scored, but it's more important to win, and tonight we did it well. We played well - a little less in the second half - but we're on the right path."

  • 'Madrid want to finish the group as soon as possible' – Kroos targets early last-16 qualification 'Madrid want to finish the group as soon as possible' – Kroos targets early last-16 qualification

    Toni Kroos insists Real Madrid want to secure qualification for the Champions League knockout stages "as soon as possible" following victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

    The holders maintained their 100 per cent start in Group F with first-half goals from Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior sealing a 2-1 win at Santiago Bernabeu.

    Despite converting just two of their 36 shots on goal, Madrid moved five points clear at the group summit after winning their opening three games in the competition for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign.

    Los Blancos could book their place in the last 16 with victory over Shakhtar in the return fixture in Warsaw next week, which would be the ideal scenario for Kroos.

    "The idea is to finish the group as soon as possible," the midfielder told Movistar+. "We have nine points out of nine, we have played three very good games, and we want another victory in Warsaw. 

    "There are days when the ball does not want to enter, it has been a game to win 7-1 or something. But in the end, it is three points, and it has been a deserved victory.

    "In the end, it's hard to believe we won only 2-1, but there are days like that. The ball will go in over the next few games."

    Head coach Carlo Ancelotti warned his players against complacency after they were pegged back against the run of play by Oleksandr Zubkov's spectacular strike.

    But the Italian was thrilled at seeing his side creating so many chances; Madrid only registering more shots on goal in a single Champions League match against Roma in March 2016.

    "[I am] satisfied because I think we played very well; the front three combined very well in front, pressing more," Ancelotti added. "We have had many opportunities, but we have not succeeded. The important thing was to have opportunities.

    "We have lowered the intensity [at 2-0 up]; we thought we were comfortable. I gave a call for attention at half-time because the game was not over.

    "It's pretty normal that it can happen. We were playing very well, it seemed easy, but these were the dangerous matches. You get ahead of yourself. 

    "I think it's important to leave this group behind next week, so we can focus on the league."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.