Billy Gilmour's quality shines through again in chastening night for Scotland

The weight of expectation placed upon Billy Gilmour’s shoulders as the saviour of the Scotland national team has always been as unrealistic as it was inevitable.

Billy Gilmour (left) tussles with Denmark's Joakim Mahle on a difficult night for Scotland in Copenhagen. (Photo by MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)
Billy Gilmour (left) tussles with Denmark's Joakim Mahle on a difficult night for Scotland in Copenhagen. (Photo by MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

It will take more than just the emergence of the country’s brightest talent in a generation to deliver the regular qualification for major tournament finals the Tartan Army crave.

That much remains clear after the 2-0 defeat in Denmark which leaves Scottish hopes of going to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar further diminished.

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In just his fourth appearance for Scotland, Gilmour ultimately didn’t look out of place in combat with the team currently ranked 11th in the world.

The 20-year-old should be a fixture in dark blue for years to come. Unless the standards around him can be raised more significantly, however, he will become accustomed to all too many nights like this.

Not that Gilmour was entirely unprepared for the chastening experience he faced in Copenhagen.

Since the start of the season, he has been part of a largely outclassed side spending much of the time chasing shadows against superior opponents.

His loan move to Norwich City, the bookies’ favourites for relegation, was always likely to present him with such a scenario.

So far, it’s been three defeats from three games against three of the Premier League’s elite in Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester City.

But at least Gilmour has started all three, which is as many as he managed in the whole of last season as a peripheral figure in the Chelsea squad.

His huge potential can only be fulfilled by regular exposure to facing top quality opposition and Denmark most assuredly came into that category.

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Gilmour suffered with the rest of his team-mates during the torrid opening spell which saw the Scots 2-0 down inside the opening quarter of an hour.

Denmark have their own emerging talents who look set to help them sustain and perhaps even improve upon their outstanding Euro 2020 finals performance.

Serie A-based duo Andreas Skov Olsen and Mikkel Damsgaard, both just a year older than Gilmour, were at the heart of the incisive football which Scotland found so hard to handle.

The exchange of passes between Damsgaard and Joakim Maehle, for the latter to score the Danes’ second goal, was a case in point and left Gilmour wrong-footed on the edge of the penalty area and the Scotland defence hopelessly flat-footed behind him.

But even in circumstances as onerous as this, there were still moments when Gilmour’s undoubted class and technical excellence shone through.

Opportunities to get on the front foot were few and far between for the visitors. When they did come along, Gilmour was usually involved. His instant awareness of situations is combined with the happy knack of choosing the right option.

As Scotland at least steadied the ship, it was Gilmour who produced their first attempt at Kasper Schmeichel's goal three minutes into the second half with a well struck shot which drifted narrowly wide of the Danish goalkeeper’s right hand post.

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Gilmour continued to demand the ball, dropping deep to collect it from defenders and always available to link up with those ahead of him.

He grew in stature as the evening progressed but lacked the required quality around him to alter the outcome. Sadly, he better get used to it.

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