One goal, one point, and all over before it had even begun. When Croatia’s third goal went in last night at Hampden Park, the dream finally disappeared. Yes, nine days the Scots lasted at Euro 2020 – not, you’d have to say, a great return after an agonising 24 year wait to qualify for a major tournament. Still, World Cup 2046 is just around the corner. The Scots will be back – of that there is little doubt – but who can say which of us will be around to see it?
The English, meanwhile, sail serenely through to the next round, top of the group, not a single goal conceded. Jack Grealish on the pitch. Gareth Southgate’s beard shaping up nicely. All is well in the world.
Too soon? Could we not allow the Scots 24 hours to lick their wounds? The thing to do here, if you’re feeling queasy about gloating, is to turn it all around. Imagine if Scotland had topped the group and England had crashed out of the tournament, would sympathy be extended from north of the border? It would not. You would hear the laughter in Cornwall. Before the tournament began, in a careless moment, I admitted to a Glaswegian friend that I rather hoped Scotland would do well. We’re all in the Union, after all. He laughed. “I wish I could say the same about your lot.” Forgive me, then, for enjoying this moment.
And anyway, if the Scottish fans are honest – really honest – with themselves, this is what they wanted all along. Scottish football thrives on plucky failure. It’s in their footballing DNA. World Cup record: played 23, won four. Euros record: played nine, won two. Don’t fight it; there is comfort to be found in routine. Qualifying was an achievement in itself. There’s always Archie Gemmill’s goal to watch on VHS.
It was great to have you at the party. Good fun. We loved welcoming you all to London last week in the rain. There will be memories to treasure. And the football wasn’t so bad. There were five corners and two shots on target at Wembley. Hey, Billy Gilmour even helped put two England players out of action for 10 days. It’s not all bad. But I’m afraid we must now say goodbye. Euro 2020 rolls on.
Too soon? Come off it.