Craig Gordon's Scotland farewell ruined and why niggling concerns remain after Euro 2024 send-off

Finland peg back Scots as veteran goalkeeper penalised harshly for penalty

Devotion in a Scottish sports stadium was not reserved for an American singer-songwriter superstar. Despite an encore-ruining comeback from Finland, adoration also poured down towards some footballers intent on shaking off the tread of major finals failure.

This was Hampden rather than Murrayfield, where Taylor Swift was in action. The only swifties were the measures of grog consumed in the minutes before kick-off as a large home crowd endeavoured to get to the stadium in time to salute their heroes.

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After a slow start, it looked like mission accomplished until two late goals robbed Scotland of a first win at Hampden for nearly a year. At least there were no obvious injuries – and Lawrence Shankland scored a goal that will have left him feeling a lot better about himself. The Hearts striker did what he so often does in a maroon jersey and fashioned a finish from an unpromising set of circumstances. Not only did he have his back to the goal when Andy Robertson swing in a cross for the umpteenth time in the night, but he had a defender’s hands all over him. Shankland nevertheless conjured up a delicious back header that should have proved the decisive goal.

Scotland's Craig Gordon was penalised for this foul on Tomas Galvez, leading to Finland's equaliser from the penalty spot at Hampden.Scotland's Craig Gordon was penalised for this foul on Tomas Galvez, leading to Finland's equaliser from the penalty spot at Hampden.
Scotland's Craig Gordon was penalised for this foul on Tomas Galvez, leading to Finland's equaliser from the penalty spot at Hampden.

The Scots almost did secure a spirits-boosting win when substitute Tommy Conway was denied his first full international goal with a late header that was brilliantly tipped over by Finland’s former Ayr United ‘keeper Viljami Sinisalo.

Even Swift will not have included anything as sentimental in her set list to rival Clarke’s gesture towards Craig Gordon. The veteran goalie is roundly accepted to have failed to claim one of the 26 places on the plane – John Souttar, not named on the bench here, is the other – but he was happy to accept his manager’s offer of a show-stopping appearance after 69 minutes. There was barely a dry eye in the house when he replaced Angus Gunn for, perhaps, his last appearance of a Scotland career stretching back to 2004. At 41, he also became Scotland’s oldest-ever player in the process.

He might have hoped for slightly more cover from his defenders once the applause had died down. Former Dundee player Benjamin Kallman directed a cute but unchallenged header into Gordon’s far corner to spark the visitors’ comeback within three minutes of the ‘keeper coming on. Finland levelled with eight minutes left with VAR exposed as a pitiless as well as unpopular innovation. Surely it was not going to endorse the view of referee Lukasz Kuzma that Gordon had taken out Tomas Galvez while punching a cross away? Indeed it did. Okay then, maybe Gordon might bow out with a penalty save? Oliver Antman ruthlessly converted. Ach well.

All was not lost. Scotland are still going to the finals. The players performed a slightly cursory lap of honour – Clarke would hardly permit anything more ostentatious.

Scotland celebrate the opening goal against Finland at Hampden.Scotland celebrate the opening goal against Finland at Hampden.
Scotland celebrate the opening goal against Finland at Hampden.

Lyndon Dykes played the ‘Danny McGrain’ role at this latest send off. Like the Celtic full-back 46 years ago, the injured Dykes turned up to support his teammates even though he knew he would not be joining them in Germany. McGrain did something similar prior to the World Cup in Argentina in 1978.

Time moves on. Neck tattoos come in and out of vogue. The Scotland quest remains the same – get through to the second stage of a major finals.

The first match in the latest attempt is now less than a week away. Clarke has revealed much of his hand with his selection here. Eight at least are likely to start in the Allianz Arena and so the primary aim for these players was simply staying upright. It was one of those very rare occasions when the phrase ‘get intae them’ was forbidden at Hampden.

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So there was plenty of mitigation for such an uninspiring opening half. Still, some players can’t help themselves. Kieran Tierney threw himself into a goal-saving block after ten minutes after Casper Terho was left in space just outside the six-yard box. Finland looked more eager to get involved, which was understandable. They also looked sharper, which was not.

Lawrence Shankland celebrates scoring his third goal in Scotland colours.Lawrence Shankland celebrates scoring his third goal in Scotland colours.
Lawrence Shankland celebrates scoring his third goal in Scotland colours.

Colin Hendry appeared at half time to ease fears. He reminded fans – many of whom were not born when he led Scotland into action at the first game of the 1998 World Cup in France – that Craig Brown’s team wee hopeless in two pre-tournament games in the United States. It happens. What matters is when the real action starts. Braveheart had spoken.

Still, although bowing to Hendry’s expertise, there’s certainly some reason for apprehension. As many as five players who could reasonably have featured either from the start or at some point in the opening game won’t now be there. Not many small countries can withstand such a severe dent in the ranks, although Anthony Ralston showed up well as an auxiliary right wing back in the absence of Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson.

Niggling areas of concern remain, including a shortage of creativity. Robertson remains the most obvious outlet in this department although little of note was produced from his crosses in the opening half.

The closest Scotland came to scoring in that period was when Arttu Hoskonen almost prodded past his own ‘keeper on the half-hour mark. The defender was more precise eight minutes into the second half. There was no surprise about the identity of the player who had forced the Finn into a miscued attempt to clear – Robertson. The Hampden Tannoy man even gave the goal to the skipper. Why not? He was after all leading the national team for a record 49th time.

Shankland’s innovative header put Scotland two up five minutes later and then then the roof was almost lifted off for Gordon. Sadly, it caved in a bit too, although the two goals he conceded here will barely rate a mention when the story of his magnificent career is written.



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