Yet, the Arsenal man maintained that this incline can surmounted as Scotland grow together – Steve Clarke’s squad the fifth youngest among the 24 teams that began the tournament, with the Balkan World Cup finalists among the oldest and most experienced.
“We will learn, for sure,” Tierney said of the country’s first major finals appearance in 23 years. “Tonight was a big learning curve for us all. They’d been there before, plenty of times, and with the quality they’ve got it showed tonight and we just have to learn from stuff like that because the way they played made it hard for us to get going.
“It’s not the end for this group of boys and this squad. It’s just the beginning of us qualifying for tournaments more and more and giving the fans more to celebrate and cheer for and I’m sure the boys will give absolutely everything to make the fans and the manager proud in the future.”
With Luka Modric orchestrating even before his sublime 23-yard strike for the Croatians’ second just after the hour, Scotland were stretched to breaking point across all key areas of the pitch. The false hope of Callum McGregor’s sleek 42nd minute equaliser always looked just that from the manner in which Croatia cranked up the intensity post-interval.
Defender Scott McKenna, who made his tournament bow as a 33rd-minute substitute for the injured Grant Hanley, didn’t sidestep the issue when asked if there was a technical gap between the teams at Hampden.
“Yeah maybe,” he said. “But on Friday night [in the 0-0 draw with England] we showed we can go toe-to-toe with some of the best teams. It’s just about doing that consistently in this format. We also had chances in games that we didn’t take, so that’s frustrating. The hope is that going forward, we put all these things together and it puts us in a better place.”
The sinking feeling that Euro 2020 was set to become Scotland’s 11th tournament without reaching the second phase became overwhelming with Modric’s strike. Tierney conceded that it was tough to regroup thereafter.
“We knew then we were going to have to score two,” he said. “And we knew the way the game was going it was going to be hard because they were unbelievable. Modric, especially, I think his performance was incredible. and as a team they were magnificent. It was just tough to play against. We knew once it was 2-1 it was going to be tough. But we never gave up, that’s for sure. We never gave up trying, Our effort was always there, no matter the scoreline, no matter the minute.
“I think that [the reaction of the fans with their cheers at the end] shows we were all in it together tonight, throughout the tournament. It was just hard not to do it tonight. But the support’s been fantastic, we’re all very grateful for that. We did our best to make the fans proud. But, it wasn’t to be.”