All the hype of Scotland’s first appearance at a major tournament for 23 years was to be short lived as they became victim to a Patrick Schick brace, seeing hopes of a first ever group qualification slowly fade away.
All the hope and anticipation of a small nation resting on the players of the Scottish national team seemed too much for the players against arguably the weakest outfit of the group. So why did it not seem to click for the Tartan Army at Hampden Park?
For the naked eye, Scotland did not shy away from creating dangerous chances and easily could have seen the scoreline reversed on its head. However, after lashing unnecessarily at efforts on goal, team chemistry was not displayed, leaving Scottish fans inside the ground stunned into silence. Experienced players such as Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Aston Villa’s John McGinn were unable to be the catalysts for their national team.
The stats of the game were all in Scotland’s favor as they out-shot, out-passed, out-tackled, and out-dribbled their opponents, but what the stats do not tell you is the nature of these shots. For example, Lyndon Dykes found himself with a shot from ten yards out, but due to the strong physical presence of the Czech goalkeeper, was able to block the effort with his legs. Dykes managed 12 goals last campaign for Queens Park Rangers and really should have opened his Euro 2020 account as well.
However, this was just one of several Scotland ‘maybe’ moments. Soon after, they hit the woodwork and found themselves on the end of a freak 49-yard goal as another Scotland strike rebounded to Schick, who had the awareness to notice that David Marshall was in no mans land and sensationally applied the necessary power, accuracy, and curl to escape the Scottish goalkeeper’s desperate efforts to recover.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke will have noticed his side’s tepid nature and will be working relentlessly throughout the week to ensure his side do not perform in such a way against rivals England. The Scottish outfit looked nervous, with the defensive four spread too far apart, allowing the opposition time and space on the ball when in the attacking third. A strong defensive outfit would have noticed the physical nature of opposition attacker Patrik Schick and become narrower, denying the opposition the opportunity to win a header in the center of the pitch.
With Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney sat watching on from the bench, the option to play a five at the back was one that Steve Clarke did not choose to apply despite Tierney’s experience of playing to the left of three central defenders, with another wing-back beside him. This would have denied the Czech Republic the opportunity to play the ball down either flank and supply a threatening cross in to the box; especially at a time where the home team desperately needed a bit of defensive solidarity.
In terms of the attacking phase of the pitch, Scotland lacked a player willing to take the game by the scruff of the neck and shoulder responsibility, similar to Spain in their opening game against Sweden. The difference with Spain being their resolute defensive nature, allowing them to commit further bodies forward.
Had Scotland moved their midfield line of McGinn, Mctominay, and Christie forward ten yards, that would have allowed them to dominate second phases of play, supplying the Czech Republic midfield a larger gap to patrol and take care of in transition. Doing so, would have also put extra pressure on the away side, therefore allowing either Lyndon Dykes or Che Adams to cover the pivot, but Steve Clarke was slow too react at half-time, allowing the visitors to score a second and take the game out of Scotland’s grasp.
If Scotland are to progress from the group stage, they have to be more street wise — committing fouls in ‘clever’ areas of the pitch and slowing down the flow of the game for their opposition as their two remaining fixtures are against teams of a higher quality (i.e., England and Croatia). They will need some luck along the way, but in order to stand up and take responsibility, they will need to convert the few chances they will create and be more resolute at the back.
It is possible for this Scottish side to advance from Group D. Portugal won the previous tournament whilst only drawing all of their group games, amounting to three points in total. In order to make history and become the first Scotland team to progress from the groups, the players in question will be required to perform to a higher level than what was on display on Monday.