Scotland show courage to keep Euro 2024 hopes alive

By AFP   June 19, 2024 | 03:31 pm PT
Scotland were unable to claim a first major tournament victory in 28 years against Switzerland on Wednesday, but they bounced back from a humbling loss to Germany to record a 1-1 draw which keeps their chances of reaching the last 16 of Euro 2024 alive.

As much as Steve Clarke's team were dismal in their 5-1 defeat against the hosts in Munich in the tournament's opening game, they were mature and courageous in holding the Swiss in Cologne.

Facing a much more experienced side, Scotland went ahead early on when Manchester United's Scott McTominay –- their top scorer in qualifying -– swept home Callum McGregor's cutback on a counter-attack.

Scott McTominay celebrates his opening goal for Scotland against Switzerland in an Euro 2024 match on June 20, 2024. Photo by Reuters

Scott McTominay celebrates his opening goal for Scotland against Switzerland in an Euro 2024 match on June 20, 2024. Photo by Reuters

They were pegged back before half-time when Xherdan Shaqiri pounced on a slack pass by Anthony Ralston to score with a stunning strike.

That was one of several instances of Scotland looking shaky in possession at the back, but the improvement from their display against Germany was remarkable.

"I thought it was a good team performance against a good opponent. It was a good reaction to a disappointing night and we are still alive in the tournament," Clarke told reporters.

His decision to bring pocket-sized Billy Gilmour into the side for Ryan Christie brought a level of assurance and quality on the ball in midfield that was sorely lacking against Germany.

"He is a fantastic player. It was always my intention to start Billy in the second game," Clarke said of the 23-year-old.

"Maybe that is why he didn't start the first game. I knew the little man was tiring towards the end of the game, because it is a tough shift in the midfield."

Playing in the number 10 role, McTominay's physical presence also caused the Swiss plenty of problems.

Scotland rode their luck at times, with Dan Ndoye missing one glorious chance before Breel Embolo had a goal disallowed for a tight offside.

However, Scotland looked the more likely winners late on and Grant Hanley –- in for the suspended Ryan Porteous -- hit the post with a late header.

Euro 2024: Scotland 1-1 Switzerland

Tierney injury

There will be disappointment at not recording a first victory at a major tournament since defeating the Swiss 1-0 at Euro 96.

Yet context is important. The Swiss were quarter-finalists at Euro 2020 and have reached at least the last 16 at the last five tournaments. They are 20 places above Scotland, who sit 39th in FIFA's rankings.

The Scots go into their final Group A match against Hungary in Stuttgart on Sunday knowing a win may well be enough to take them to the knockout phase of a major tournament for the first time.

It would leave them on four points and guarantee at least third place -- four points has always been enough to reach the last 16 in the current European Championship format.

"The reality is that when the draw was made and we were drawn against the host nation in the opening game, you are looking at the other two games in the group and thinking maybe that is where our points are going to come from," Clarke said.

"That is the way it has turned out."

However, Scotland have now failed to win any of their last eight matches across World Cups and European Championships.

They have only ever won six of 34 games at these tournaments, a record that simply has to improve against the Hungarians.

"They are going to feel a lot better going into the next game on the back of that kind of performance, which is what we are. This is how we play," Clarke said.

"This is how we work and we have showed that as well as the aggression and the fight and that dirty side of the game if you like, that we can play.

"We are still in the competition and that was the most important thing."

However, Clarke confirmed that they will go into the Hungary encounter without Kieran Tierney, after the defender was stretchered off in the second half with an apparent hamstring injury.

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