Scotland Under-21s display promise, but Denmark show how good they are

After the disruption of their opening European Championship qualifier, there was something reassuringly straightforward about the difficulties associated with this one.

Denmark's Gustav Isaksen scores the opening goal during the UEFA Under-21 Championship Qualifier match between Scotland and Denmark at Tynecastle Stadium on October 07, 2021, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

This time Scotland simply had to contend with how good Denmark are.

It was never going to be easy, not against the Group I top seeds, but having discovered real strength and depth at this age level, Scot Gemmill was able to revert back to many of his first-choice picks, for the host side’s latest bid to defy their underdog status.

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Ahead of last month’s group match away to Turkey there had been nine new faces drafted in after 10 of the original picks, all based in England, were deemed unavailable due to Covid quarantine rules.

Scotland's Stephen Kelly competes with Nikolas Nartey. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

The fact the Scots, who have not qualified for a under-21 finals since 1996, still managed a draw was an encouraging start and they will have been further bolstered by a performance that, while ultimately not good enough, was strong and competitive.

Gustav Isaksen’s 13th minute goal, proved the difference between the side’s but the fact the visiting side couldn’t build on that early advantage was testament to a promising group of lads, who are still gelling but who also have the belief that they can at the very least bolster the nation’s standing at this level and pave the way for easy qualification routes in the future.

But, just two games into the campaign, they are in no mood to write it off yet.

Denmark were quicker, smoother, more athletic and imposing. But given the gulf in ranking - Scotland are the pot four team in a group that also includes current leaders Belgium - Scotland had plenty to be proud of.

Scotland's Stephen Welsh after the UEFA Under-21 Championship Qualifier match between Scotland and Denmark at Tynecastle. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

The resilience shown after that early lapse, as they dug heels in and found a way to repel their guests, was a positive, as too was the way they worked as a unit to close Denmark down, snapping away at them and ensuring they did not have the opportunity to get into full flow.

In the end, the major difference was the cutting edge shown by the Danes, who, were assisted at the goal by some sloppy defensive work as Scotland failed to deal effectively with a throw in at the half way line. That was compounded by some questionable goalkeeping as Manchester City’s Cieran Slicker, having made the effort to read the shot and get across his goal seemed to be fooled by an awkward skip off the turf just in front of him.

Midtjylland’s Isaksen has been a threat from the outset with direct running and he wasn’t the only one. It took the Scots a little while to settle into the game and learn how to contend with the pace and the drive.

A learning curve for many of the players who are new to this level, had they managed to conjure up a little bit more creativity they might have levelled.

Glenn Middleton was on the front foot as was Scott Banks when he joined the action. But the Danes were a canny bunch and, reading the play well, were able to crowd out attacks. There was a flicker of hope in the final minute when space opened up for Banks who lashed a shot in but the diving Mads Hermansen pushed it away.

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