THEY CAME, THEY SAW … THAT WAS ABOUT IT
In 1954 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1958 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1974 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1978 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1982 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1986 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1990 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1992 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1996 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1998 Scotland went out in the group stage. In Euro Not 2020 Scotland … well. They weren’t even sent homeward to think again; this time the tearful, painful exit took place at Hampden Park itself.
Would Wee Billy Gilmour have made a difference against Croatia had he not tested positive for the Great Unpleasantness and been forced to cosset himself away in a Darlo hotel with only his Xbox and a set of bongos for company? Maybes aye, maybes no, as our cousin Shortbread McFiver would have it, had he not also cosseted himself away, with only his Runrig albums and Take the High Road boxset for company. McFiver is refusing to take calls from crowing Sassenach relatives hailing Union Jack Grealish and pretending they had known all along that Bukayo Saka was the answer. He’ll be back online soon enough, probably around the time a missed shootout penalty from Declan Rice confirms the Auld Enemy has joined Scotland down the EN 2020 dumper.
At least Scotland managed to do a goal, with Callum McGregor’s cracker the equal of just about any scored amid tournament group-stage failure in Caledonian navy blue. Briefly there was hope, but then Croatia revealed that those writing them off had forgotten that Luka Modric, 67, is still a bloody marvel. As the vale of tears filled up and the Tartan Army’s Billy Ray Cyrus-b@stardising anthem at last fell silent, perhaps there was a realisation that John McGinn may not, after all, be better than Zidane and that the rest of us understood that all along.
Steve Clarke, a man whose taciturn demeanour makes Lord Ferg look like James Corden on high-strength happy pills, has much to be proud of. He’ll always have that glorious 0-0 victory at Wembley. And in Wee Billy’s absence, a classic Ecosse hard-luck tournament story, one to go alongside Wille Johnston’s positive test back in 1978. “We’ll make sure it’s not 23 years before we go to the next tournament,” roared Clarke. “We can’t go another 23 years,” tooted Andy Robertson in agreement, as Scotland’s Yes Sir, I Can Boogie floorshow reached its last dance. Exiting the group stage of the Human Rights World Cup next year is the aim now.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
The Euros blog is here, while … deep breath again … Barry Glendenning will be on hand for hot MBM coverage of Slovakia 0-2 Spain at 5pm BST, when Daniel Harris will be all over Sweden 1-1 Poland, before Gregg Bakowski is at the helm for Germany 3-0 Hungary and Paul Doyle guides you through Portugal 1-1 France, both at 8pm.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We’ve played two opponents in the Croats and the Czechs who I think are playing at a very good level and Scotland which, as an experience for our players, was quite unique. These will be different games. We know it’s world champions, European champions and Germany, who look like they’re back on song” – bring on the big hitters is Gareth Southgate’s war cry, as much as Gareth Southgate could ever make a war cry, after England topped the group by beating Czech Republic 1-0.
Football Daily at EN 2020: here’s the latest episode.
“England’s route to EN 2020 glory (yesterday’s Fiver) looks daunting, but it’s pretty much the same for all the remaining teams. In fact it’s worse for the other 15, some of whom will have to face the eventual winner” – Robert Blanchard.
“Can I be one of the 1,057 pedants to point out that Mario Draghi’s desire to take the EN 2020 final to Rome would not actually be good for him in the polls (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs) as he’s an unelected ‘technocrat’ PM and won’t be standing in said ensuing polls” – David Lee (and no others).
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Robert Blanchard.
BREAKING NEWS …
A police officer has been convicted of the manslaughter of former professional footballer Dalian Atkinson, after firing an electric stun gun into him for 33 seconds and kicking him twice in the head as he lay on the ground. PC Benjamin Monk of the West Mercia force, was convicted of the killing by a jury at Birmingham crown court.
MORE NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Munich mayor Dieter Reiter has hit out at Uefa’s decision to decline a request to illuminate the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours for Germany v Hungary. “I find it shameful that Uefa forbids us to send a message here in Munich for openness, tolerance, respect and solidarity with the LGBTQI + community,” he said. “I am also very disappointed that the DFB, despite the unbelievably clear positioning here in Munich, in Bavaria and also in Germany, has not achieved or wanted to achieve anything.”
Franco Foda doesn’t see the point of Austria travelling to Wembley for their last-16 date with Italy. Oh, not just in the playing sense. “As things stand, there will be almost no Austrian fans in the stadium – or Italian ones, either,” he sniffed.
If Forrest Gump reckoned life was like a box of chocolates, Luis Enrique says Spain are like a bottle of cava. Cheap and inferior to other options? “As soon as we do take that cork out, as soon as we produce a complete performance and get the kind of win that gives us confidence, our best version will come out,” he tooted.
And Netherlands striker Luuk de Jong, who has made two substitute appearances so far, is out of the tournament with knee-knack.
NON EUROS BUSINESS
Having cashed in on Emi Buendía, Norwich City have replaced him with Milot Rashica for around £10m. “It has always been a dream for me to play in the Premier League and I’m so happy Norwich have given me this great opportunity,” he cheered.
And Argentinians have marked the 35-year anniversary of this Diego Maradona goal by taking to their balconies, windows and gardens to shout “Goooooooooooooool!” at precisely 4.09pm, the minute the ball hit England’s net at the Azteca Stadium. “The goal was so incredible that it sent the whole country into a delirium,” sighed Buenos Aires muralist Leonardo Oliver.
STILL WANT MORE?
Here’s how the group tables and knockout stages are currently looking.
And the Golden Boot race is slowly warming up nicely.
Welcome, belatedly, to the summer of Saka, writes Jonathan Liew.
Who are international football’s ultimate one-goal wonders? The Knowledge knows.
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