Scotland showed plenty of heart in their third match of Euro 2020, but fell short of a Croatia side that finally showed some shades of their class and poise, defeating the Tartan Army 3-1.
Both teams came into their matchday with all to play for in their Group D encounter. Assuming England defeated the Czech Republic, a win for either side would guarantee passage to the knockout stages of Euro 2020.
The pace was frenetic and got off to a flying start, neither side willing to give an inch from the opening whistle. Scotland wanted to impose themselves early in the game, but Croatia drew first blood against the run of play in the 17th minute.
A cross from the right flank found the head of Ivan Perisic, who nodded it back toward the centre of the box for Nikola Vlasic to bury on his left foot, shell shocking the Scots into submission. The first half became one way traffic for possession as Croatia looked more like the World Cup finalists of 2018.
Seemingly every passage of play, every pass and cross coming with real intent and venom from both sides as they displayed the desperation worthy of a place in the knockout stages.
Scotland never relented and were finally gifted an opportune moment to strike shortly before half time. A poor clearance fell the way of a poised Callum McGregor who guided it into the back of the net beautifully from the edge of the area. His first international goal was also Scotland's first at Euro 2020, and their first at a major tournament in 23 years.
The second half started in similar fashion with the Scots more confident than their counterparts, but once again Croatia stunned the Scottish crowd into silence. Crisp passing from Croatia's left side teed it up perfectly for Luka Modric who buried his shot with the outside of his boot, a notable contender for one of the goals of the tournament from the former Ballon d'Or winner.
Tensions began to flare late in the game but Croatia had the cooler heads to put the game beyond doubt in the 77th minute. A corner from Modric was flicked on with a deft header from Perisic, the ball dropping into the bottom corner and the pro Scottish crowd was left deflated, though they applauded their side before the final whistle in a true moment of Scottish pride.
Both sides displayed excellent mettle and intent but ultimately Scotland lacked the world class finishing quality shown by Croatia, who will need to kick it up another gear if they are to make some noise in the next stage of Euro 2020.
EURO 2020 - GROUP STAGE
Croatia – 3 (Vlasic 17', Modric 62', Perisic 77')
Scotland – 1 (McGregor 42')
Hampden Park, GlasgowMan of the Match:Luka Modric
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