Defiant Scotland manager Steve Clarke has say on Euro 2020 exit and prospects for major tournaments

Scotland manager Steve Clarke insists his squad “have a lot to be happy about” despite their early exit from the Euro 2020 finals and has promised it won’t be another 23-year wait before they qualify for another major tournament.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke looks on as his team are beaten 3-1 by Croatia at Hampden to make their exit from the Euro 2020 finals. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Clarke’s team were outclassed by Croatia in a 3-1 defeat at Hampden which left them bottom of Group D with just a single point to their credit.

Hopes that they could become the first Scottish team to reach the knockout stage in a major finals were crushed as goals from Nikola Vlasic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic rendered Callum McGregor’s first goal for his country an irrelevance on a chastening night.

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But Clarke remained defiant afterwards, claiming the players under his command will learn from the experience and improve in the coming months and years.

Scotland captain Andy Robertson's despair is clear to see at the final whistle after the 3-1 defeat by Croatia at Hampden. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Scotland will return to action in September when they resume their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a triple-header against Denmark, Moldova and Austria.

While their appearance at a first finals since the 1998 World Cup ended in anti-climax, Clarke is confident he can avoid another barren period for the national team.

“I’m disappointed the tournament has ended early for us but we have a lot to be happy about,” said Clarke.

“The way we got there after 23 years, the way we approached the tournament – we tried to compete but unfortunately were not quite good enough to get out of the group.

“There is lots to learn from everyone, head coach included. We will all sit down and take stock of it.

“We will look at performances and I’ll look at my performance and the performance of the players. We will look and see what we can do better in the future. We will make sure it’s not 23 years until we get to the next tournament.

“We have to get better in every department. Our forward players – Lyndon Dykes, Che Adams and Kevin Nisbet – will get better at international level. We have conceded goals in this tournament which were avoidable, so that needs to improve too.

“But we have improved a lot over the two years I’ve been head coach – that’s my belief, others may disagree. We have to keep improving and make sure we don’t have to wait too long to qualify for the next tournament.”

Clarke had no complaints with the outcome against 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia who finished runners-up in Group D and progress to the last 16 along with winners England and third-placed Czech Republic.

“We had a little spell just before we got the equalising goal from Callum McGregor and just after we got the goal when we looked like we might get something out of the game.

“But overall Croatia were the better team and you just have to accept that. We tried as hard as we could to find a way back in after going 2-1 down but then conceded a third from a set piece which was disappointing.

“You saw tonight a team who are tournament hardened in Croatia against a team who are in the first tournament for a long time.

“We started on the back foot and losing in the first game against the Czechs is something we need to address in the next one.”

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