How Scotland are laced with joy and regret on fervent Euros night as Tartan Army await key updates

Scotland 1-1 Switzerland: Clarke and Co keep their last 16 hopes alive in Cologne

Mauled in Munich, some redemption by the Rhine. Scotland came within the width of a post from taking three points from this crucial Group A clash but will still draw enormous satisfaction from the fact their Euro 2024 flame is burning brightly again.  Steve Clarke’s reputation for securing results when he truly needs them was buttressed here on a frantic night in Cologne. The Scots battled to ensure that they head to Stuttgart this weekend knowing that a win over Hungary will be the key to unlocking a 70-year quest. 

Still, there was some regret. Grant Hanley showed admirable determination to get his head to Andy Robertson's free-kick midway through the second half but saw it bash back off the post. But the most anguished moment surely came shortly before this when Kieran Tierney fell to the ground after a challenge that probably prevented Switzerland taking the lead. The influential defender promptly indicated that he had to come off.  

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Both goals came in the first half, with Scott McTominay’’s deflected effort handing Scotland a belated lift off after the despair of Friday night’s 5-1 defeat. Xherdan Shaqiri’s sumptuous finish levelled matters 13 minutes later after he latched onto a poor backpass from Anthony Ralston. The Celtic defender nevertheless stuck manfully to his task in difficult circumstances thereafter. 

Rather than focus on the actual games, Scottish football’s review into Euro 2024 might have to concentrate on injures. Any such analysis will surely have to begin on a training ground in Brentford, where Aaron Hickey suffered an injury had to him missing these finals. And then it can move on to the latter stages of an Everton-Chelsea game when Nathan Patterson, Hickey’s deputy, sustained a torn hamstring.

Scott McTominay celebrates opening the scoring against Switzerland.Scott McTominay celebrates opening the scoring against Switzerland.
Scott McTominay celebrates opening the scoring against Switzerland. | Getty Images

The under-used Ralston has been pushed into action at right wing back and it’s been hard to watch at times. He has given his all but he’s clearly suffering due to lack of match fitness after a season where he had been used so sparingly by Celtic. 

Ralston’s mistake was the kind any defender can make. And it was an extra misfortune that the opposition player who was on hand to try to take advantage was Shaqiri, whose qualities remain to the fore at the age of 32. He curled a first time shot with precise measurement inside Angus Gunn’s near post. 

As at 2020, Scotland have been speared by some exceptional finishing. It’s what happens on this grand stage. Poor defending of course does not help. It’s also hard to prosper when little is created in attack although Uefa did concede that McTominay had scored Scotland’s goal here, after originally awarding it as an own goal by Fabian Schar.  

Clarke’s challenge for his team was a fairly simple one. Play better. His request of the Tartan Army? Keep the faith. The manager will have been satisfied with the response on both counts. Scotland played with far more purpose and the fans helped create an unbelievable din in this footballing cathedral in Cologne. 

Oh this was epic all right. The first ten minutes or so wouldn’t have had the battalion of Uefa analysts and observers rhapsodising about the standard of play. It was ragged from both sides although Scotland certainly started better than they had against Germany, not that the bar was set very high. Swiss fans will have been voicing the same complaints as the Scots were about their team last week. Standing off their men, slack in possession. What was going on? It couldn’t last. It didn’t. Switzerland found their form and demonstrated their class.  

A huge cheer greeted the winning of a Scottish corner although McTominay rather doused the enthusiasm with a poor delivery. Passes continued going astray, including from the returning Billy Gilmour. He had been restored o the starting line up at the expense of Ryan Christie and other than when sending a ball sent straight out of play in the corner brought an element of control that was missing on Friday. 

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Not that sending the ball straight out of play was necessarily a bad thing. Jack Hendry’s concession of a needless corner looked very ominous indeed but in fact turned into an ‘assist’ from which Scotland sourced the opener after a terrific, pacey counter-attack up the left, which was set in motion by a clever touch from Gilmour. 

Robertson carried the ball before sending a pass wide to McGregor, who cut it back for McTominay. The Manchester United midfield sent a shot towards goal that might well have troubled Yam Sommer and certainly did trouble him after Fabian Schar inadvertently turned the ball high into his own net. 

Xerdan Shaqiri and Switzerland pounced on a mistake from Anthony Ralston to equalise.Xerdan Shaqiri and Switzerland pounced on a mistake from Anthony Ralston to equalise.
Xerdan Shaqiri and Switzerland pounced on a mistake from Anthony Ralston to equalise. | Getty Images

The Scottish supporters exploded. The first goal had felt so, so important. For the first time since Euro 96 – and against the same opponents – Scotland had taken the lead in a major finals match. Now the trick was keeping it.

They proved only able to hold the advantage for 13 minutes. Gilmour chested the ball down before playing the ball back to Ralston, who was short when seeking to roll the ball back towards Hanley. Shaqiri pounced. 1-1.  Off went the little winger to celebrate in the corner while Ralston sunk to this knees. It was another entry in the litany of self-inflicted Scottish wounds on a sporting field. 

Scotland had a grip of the game through McTominay’s deflected effort but the Swiss looked the more comfortable on the ball and ended the half pounding on the door. Gunn tipped wide from Granit Xhaka and a VAR decision saved Scotland from going behind, with an offside decision chalking off Ndoye’s goal amid chaotic scenes in the Scottish box.  

As significant a moment as any at these championships as far as Scotland are concerned occurred just before the hour mark when Tierney stayed on the floor after challenging the robust Ndoye on the edge of the box. 

He had done enough to put the striker off his stride - Ndoye sent his shot the wrong side of the post. However, Tierney suffered what looked like a serious injury in the process. Updates on his situation will be eagerly awaited in the coming days from Garmish-Partenkirchen, Scotland’s base. Clarke’s side can at least deliver one medical bulletin already – still alive.

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