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."

Croatia and Scotland face a must-win showdown at Hampden Park in Euro 2020 Group D – something that is not ideal for Zlatko Dalic's side.

In five previous meetings with Scotland, Croatia have never won (D3 L2). They have only faced world champions France (eight times) and reigning Euros kings Portugal (seven) more often without tasting victory.

But Scotland have been hit by a COVID-19 positive for Billy Gilmour after the Chelsea midfielder's man-of-the-match showing in the 0-0 draw with England.

That game at Wembley engendered a feelgood factor around Steve Clarke's squad, despite the fact they remain without a goal or a win in their two matches at the tournament so far.

Indeed, despite the impressive work overall of front two Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes last time out, Scotland have failed to score in five of their past eight matches at major tournaments (W1 D3 L4), with their 30 shots at Euro 2020 all fruitless.

"There’s been a good mood around the camp since we played England," Clarke said.

"I think the performance more than the result is what pleased us. We needed something from the game to make the last game the cup final it is, and we’re all looking forward to it."

Like Scotland, Croatia's haul of one point from two games means victory and hoping to finish as one of the four best third-place teams looks their most likely route through.

"I want this Croatia side to have support from the public, they deserve that, they deserve it for everything they've done for Croatian football," Dalic said. "As long as we have a chance to qualify, we need support."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Scotland – Scott McTominay

Gilmour's absence leaves a question mark over how Steve Clarke will use McTominay for this crunch clash. The Manchester United player reverted to a place in the back three against England, where he was a calming influence – his 54 touches more than any other Scotland player. When he featured in central midfield for the 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic, no team-mate bettered McTominay's two tackles or three interceptions.

Croatia – Ivan Perisic

Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic are sorely missed and Luka Modric might be straining for the memory of his Ballon d'Or-winning form, but Croatia still have Perisic to fire their hopes of progress. The Inter winger's blistering strike to snatch a 1-1 draw against the Czechs kept them above water in the competition. It also made him the first Croatia player to score at four different major tournaments, with eight goals in such matches overall.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

– None of the five matches between Croatia and Scotland have produced more than two goals.
– Scotland have only lost one of their past nine matches at Hampden Park, their opening reverse against the Czech Republic. They last suffered consecutive defeats there in 2019.
– Croatia have won only two of their previous 11 international matches across all competitions (D3 L6) and are winless in their past four (D2 L2). Scotland are looking to avoid failing to score in three consecutive competitive matches for the first time since three games between November 2003 and October 2004.
– Nikola Vlasic is the sole midfielder with five or more goals and five or more assists in each of the past three campaigns in the Russian Premier League. The only other player to do so in the competition is Zenit striker Artem Dzyuba.
– Andrej Kramaric is one of the three players to have scored 10 or more goals in each of the past five Bundesliga seasons, alongside Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry.

Billy Gilmour is a huge part of Scotland's future after his standout performance against rivals England at Euro 2020.

Those were the words of Scotland boss Steve Clarke after his side impressively kept their last-16 qualification hopes alive with a 0-0 draw at Wembley on Friday.

Chelsea prospect Gilmour, 20, was handed his first international start for the massive match, which ended in the first goalless draw between the two nations in 33 meetings at Wembley.

Despite his inexperience, the composed Gilmour led Scotland for passes (44), completed passes (40) and passes in the opposition half (24), while he gained possession eight times, more than anyone else on the pitch.

Gilmour got a huge reception from the Scotland fans when he was replaced by Stuart Armstrong in the closing stages, with Clarke thrilled by what he had seen.

"It was nice for him to get that start, a big platform – he is a big player, Billy," said Clarke.

"I've said for a long time he'll be a big part of the future of Scottish football.

"We know what we've got in the camp, we'll try to manage that and keep a lid on things. Performances like that will do him no harm whatsoever.

"Stephen O'Donnell was exceptional, and Billy was just behind him. 

"Getting Kieran [Tierney] back into the three and having Scott [McTominay] there [in defence] gives us the platform to build from the back. Billy Gilmour and Callum McGregor [in midfield] are both good footballers. 

"We knew coming here we couldn't just sit and defend for 95 minutes, we knew when we had the ball, we had to take care of it and try to create our own chances. 

"That's what we managed to do."

 

Scotland ended the match with more attempts (11-9) and shots on target (2-1) than England, though the hosts edged the xG battle (1.6-0.7), given John Stones had headed against the post early on.

Having recovered well from their first loss to the Czech Republic, Scotland now face a must-win clash with Croatia at Hampden on Tuesday as Group D concludes.

Scotland captain Andy Robertson also had praise for Gilmour as he looked ahead to that contest.

"I'd put Gilmour's performance right up there," said the Liverpool defender.

"Nothing phases him. I believe he can have as many caps as he wants for Scotland. He's got a big future, but the here and now's pretty good for him too.

"I think we did deserve to win but we will take a point, it keeps us alive.

"But it's important we use the feeling, the feeling, the fans being happy with us going into Tuesday and try to use it to get a positive result to get out of the group."

As concerns over social distancing and flight restrictions continue to surround Euro 2020, John Stones gave everyone the opportunity to construct their own joke when he soared high above the Scotland defence with no one particularly near him in the 11th minute at Wembley on Friday.

The England centre-back's jump was slightly mis-timed, though, and his header from a right-wing corner crashed against the post.

Worryingly for Gareth Southgate – well, as worried as it's sensible to be with four points on the board from two games in a group stage format lacking too much jeopardy – that was the closest the hosts came to breaking the deadlock in a 0-0 draw that crackled away without ever truly catching fire.

When England reached their first major tournament semi-final for 28 years at the 2018 World Cup, it felt churlish to complain that they often lacked threat from open play. Goals from well-constructed set-pieces count the same and there was an exciting generation of attacking talent on the way.

And yet, as Phil Foden and Mason Mount schemed against a disciplined Scotland with typical intelligence and craft, as Wembley clamour for Jack Grealish was sated midway through the second half and as Jadon Sancho inexplicably remained an unused substitute, here we were.

Rabid debate is now sure to follow over how England's support attackers should be configured, but concern might be better directed towards one of Southgate's untouchables.

When Harry Kane trudged off to be replaced by Marcus Rashford in the 74th minute, it was surprising only because of his deserved status as one of the finest centre-forwards in world football, not at all because of his performance.

 

In the first half, no player had fewer than Kane's 10 touches. That tally edged up to 19 by the time he departed and everything in between had been horribly laboured – even when Scotland bodies briefly appeared to part and his tired left-footed shot was blocked before the hour.

The opening two Group D games are the first time since last November that Kane has not managed a shot on target in a consecutive matches. Those games were against Chelsea and Manchester City.

If Kane is tired, it would be understandable. Among players classed as forwards by Opta in the Premier League, only Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins (3,329) and his Tottenham colleague Son Heung-min (3,121) played more than his 3,085 top-flight minutes in 2020-21.

The fact is that Scotland's unheralded front two Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams comfortably outplayed Kane and both came closer to scoring – QPR's Dykes in particular when he forced Reece James into a goalline clearance.

Kane's reputation as a creator has blossomed in recent years – he topped the Premier League standings for goals and assists last term – and he laid on a 55th-minute chance from which James should have done far better.

Still, his overall contribution, on and off the ball, was negligible, as England plodded about the turf ponderously deep, unable to muster more than Mount's solitary shot on target early in the second period.

 

The Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips midfield axis worked to fine effect in nullifying and overpowering Luka Modric and Croatia's arch schemers at the weekend. In the knockout stages, they could be vital in tandem once more, but as this match ticked by it felt like an excess of insurance.

As was the case during some of the less triumphant moments in Russia, Southgate stuck with his shape when dropping Mount deeper and deploying Grealish in tandem with Foden instead of sacrificing the Manchester City youngster looked like the best way to open up the contest.

Southgate's decision to stick rather than twist in-game is not a new problem, nor was the lack of creativity to which it contributed. However, they were issues that did not prevent England from going deep in the last World Cup or defeating its beaten finalists.

They are not new problems and are surmountable if all else is working well. On the other hand, an off-colour, non-threatening Kane is a new and growing problem and certainly not one England can continue to absorb if they want to bring football "home" or even to a vaguely agreeable postcode.

England and Scotland will meet for the 100th time in competitive internationals on Friday in a match that could prove pivotal to their respective Euro 2020 campaigns.

The Three Lions began Group D with a 1-0 win over Croatia at Wembley, while Scotland suffered a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic, Patrik Schick scoring from a header and then a quite remarkable strike from near the halfway line.

This is typically a high-scoring match: these teams have met 32 times previously at England's national stadium and none of those matches has ended goalless. In the 21st century, this fixture averages four goals per game, with England scoring 11 and Scotland five overall.

Victory for Gareth Southgate's side would guarantee their place in the last 16, while a positive result is a must for Scotland: should Steve Clarke's men lose and Croatia fail to beat the Czech Republic, the Scots will be unable to finish in the top two and must rely on their chances of ending up as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Recent history is not on Scotland's side. They have beaten England just once in their past 11 meetings: a 1-0 win at Wembley in November 1999, secured by a Don Hutchison goal. Their only previous meeting at a major tournament, back at Euro 96, saw England win 2-0 thanks to goals from Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne.

 

England defender Harry Maguire, who has declared himself fit enough to be involved after recovering from an ankle ligament injury, expects "a great occasion" when Friday's game begins at 20:00 local time.

"Of course it is a big game," said the Manchester United captain. "Any game in the Euros is a massive game, putting Scotland in there as well is huge.

"It is going to be a great day, a great occasion for the country to get together and push us forward and try our best to go and get the three points and perform on the day.

"It will only be a great day if we get the three points and then I am sure we will enjoy the occasion."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England – Kalvin Phillips

Arguably the best player on the pitch against Croatia, Phillips delivered an accomplished display, assisting Raheem Sterling's goal as he completed 95 per cent of his passes in the opposition half, the most of any starting player.

With Jordan Henderson struggling to be fit, the Leeds United man could well keep his place for a game in which his passing array could prove useful.

Scotland – David Marshall

Marshall made five saves against the Czech Republic but still came in for criticism for Schick's second, given how far he was off his line when Scotland's attack broke down.

The Derby County goalkeeper could be pivotal to Scotland's chances of a result here, though, as England will be expected to create opportunities.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- England have won all six of their matches in all competitions in 2021, only the third time they have won their opening six matches of a calendar year (also in 1909 and 1986). They have never won their first seven in a year previously, while the Three Lions last won seven consecutive games between September 2014 and March 2015 under Roy Hodgson.
- Scotland have failed to score in five of their seven matches at the European Championship. The only games in which they have found the net have been in their third and final group games of their two previous appearances (3-0 vs CIS in 1992, 1-0 vs Switzerland in 1996).
- Scotland had the highest expected goals tally of any of the four sides in Group D on matchday one (1.9). However, they were unable to convert any of 19 attempts in their defeat to the Czech Republic.
- Sterling has been directly involved in 19 goals in his past 17 appearances for England (13 goals, six assists). Sterling has ended on the winning side in all 11 previous matches when he has scored for the Three Lions, the best 100 per cent win record in games scored in England's entire history. He has also played the most games for England at Wembley without losing (23 – W21 D2).
- Andy Robertson created six chances for Scotland against the Czech Republic, the most of any player in Group D on matchday one. In fact, in European Championship history only Gary McAllister (16) and Gordon Durie (seven) have created more chances than Robertson among Scottish players, despite those players playing at least four games more than the Liverpool defender.

Tomas Soucek hailed Patrik Schick's long-range strike against Scotland as "the goal of the tournament" after the forward's double helped the Czech Republic beat Scotland 2-0 in their Euro 2020 opener.

Schick stole the show in Monday's Group D clash at Hampden Park with a towering first-half header and an incredible goal from just inside the opposition half after 52 minutes.

The second was measured at 49.7 yards, making it the longest-range goal scored at the European Championship since such data was first recorded in 1980.

Euro 2020 may still be in its early stages, but Soucek does not believe team-mate Schick's sensational strike will be bettered throughout the rest of the tournament.

"It's clear we already have the goal of the tournament. No need to try to beat it," Soucek said.

 

Schick overtakes Torsten Frings (38.6 yards) for the longest recorded strike in the competition with what was his 13th goal in 27 appearances for the Czech Republic.

The Bayer Leverkusen man lobbed the ball over David Marshall after his side turned over possession inside their own half, leaving the backpedalling Scotland keeper red faced.

And speaking after the game, Schick confirmed he had spotted Marshall off his line earlier in the contest and decided to have a go from range.

"I knew he liked to stay very high, so when the ball came, I quickly checked where he was standing, and it was a nice goal," he told BBC Sport. 

"I saw the keeper off his line. I checked already in the first half and thought maybe this situation will come."

Schick has scored eight goals in his last nine starts for the Czech Republic, with Monday's long-ranger at Hampden Park undoubtedly the pick of the pitch.

"We know he's a genius," Czech coach Jaroslav Silhavy told reporters. "He knows how to finish and that's why he's there - it was something out of this world. 

"We really haven't seen a goal like that from the middle of the field for a long time."

Scotland were backed by around 12,000 spectators on home soil in what was their first major tournament game in 23 years.

The hosts had 19 shots, four of those on target, but a lack of composure and some good goalkeeping from Tomas Vaclik kept them out.

Steve Clarke does not believe that the two-goal margin of victory for the Czech Republic paints a true reflection and is eager to bounce back for Friday's clash with bitter rivals England.

"It was quite an even game. There wasn't much in it," the Scotland boss told BBC Sport. "Obviously they were a little bit more clinical with their chances. 

"Losing the goal with a second-phase set-piece was disappointing and we went in at half-time on the backfoot, then the boy's hit a wonderful strike from just inside our half. 

"It was a shot that got blocked that fell perfect for them. So those moments went against us. When we had our chances to get back, we didn't take them. 

"At times we played some good stuff. I'll have a good think about it. We'll go back to base camp, lick our wounds for 24 hours, then get ready for the game on Friday."

Clarke is hopeful of having Kieran Tierney back from injury to face England at Wembley, with the defender proving a big loss for Scotland in their tournament opener.

Fellow defender Andy Robertson was Scotland's star performer against the Czech Republic, creating a game-high six chances, none of which his team-mates could convert.

"At the highest level, you have to take your chances," he said. "The Czech Republic did that, we didn't, and that's why we’re on the wrong end of a result.

"For the first one, we shouldn't concede. It's a good header but we've got to be a wee bit stronger and braver.

"We started the second half well and hit the bar. The boy's in his own half and it's a one in a million shot. It knocked the stuffing out of us. Going forward, we need to be more clinical."

Scotland have now lost their opening match in five of their last six appearances at a major tournament, failing to score on five occasions in that run.

Scotland will join England in taking the knee when the great rivals meet at Euro 2020, as head coach Steve Clarke vowed to fight racism and tackle "ignorance".

England's players have been going down on one knee before games as a protest against racism, while Scotland have since March stood together as a group to make their own united statement.

They intend to carry on in that way but will make an exception for the England game at Wembley on June 18, having been disappointed by reactions to their own method of facing down discrimination.

A frustrated Clarke said that "some individuals and groups have sought to politicise or misrepresent the Scotland national team position".

He reiterated his squad's view that "the purpose of taking the knee ... has been diluted and undermined by the continuation of abuse towards players", but Clarke does not want Scotland's actions to be interpreted as anything but being vigorously opposed to discrimination.

The one-off policy shift is a statement of Scotland's solidarity with their English counterparts, who have faced booing from supporters of the national team after taking the knee.

"In light of divisive and inaccurate comments being perpetuated by individuals and groups, whose views we denounce in the strongest terms, we have reflected today as a group," Clarke said.

"We remain committed to our principles of taking a stand but we must also be unequivocal in condemning the opportunistic false narrative being presented by some.

"We have therefore agreed that we will show solidarity with our counterparts in England, many of whom are team-mates of our own players, and who have found themselves on the receiving end of abuse from fans in recent international matches.

"We will continue to take a stand – together, as one – for our matches at Hampden Park. For our match at Wembley, we will stand against racism and kneel against ignorance."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed the move, writing on Twitter: "Good decision, Scotland – well done!"

Scotland begin their Euro 2020 campaign – their first major finals since the 1998 World Cup – with a Hampden clash against the Czech Republic on Monday.

Andy Robertson, the Scotland captain and Liverpool left-back, backed the decision to take the knee before the highly anticipated Wembley game.

Robertson said: "Our stance is that everyone, players, fans, teams, clubs, federations, governing bodies and governments must do more. Meaningful action is needed if meaningful change is to occur.

"But it is also clear, given the events around the England national team, taking the knee in this tournament matters as a symbol of solidarity.

"For this reason, we have collectively decided to again take the knee as a team for the fixture against England at Wembley Stadium.

"The Scotland team stands against racism but we will kneel against ignorance and in solidarity on June 18th."

John Fleck has tested positive for coronavirus at Scotland's pre-Euro 2020 training camp in Alicante.

The Sheffield United midfielder will self-isolate in La Finca, where the Scotland squad have spent the last four days, and will not travel with the rest of his team-mates for Wednesday's friendly against the Netherlands in Portugal.

Scotland also face Luxembourg in a friendly on Sunday before their Euro 2020 opener against the Czech Republic in Glasgow on June 14.

The rest of the squad were tested on Tuesday following five-cap Fleck's positive result and all returned negative tests.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke said: "He has no symptoms. Obviously, he's got to isolate for a few days so we'll keep an eye on him and look after him like we do everybody. So hopefully it stops there.

"We're looking at the information we’ve got and relying on the doctors and the medical opinions and we’re 90 per cent sure that John brought it into the camp.

"It's one of those things. We know the state of the world at the moment with the pandemic. We just have to deal with it, as other countries might have to deal with it as well."

Scotland, who are preparing for their first major tournament in 23 years, also face England and Croatia in Group D.

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