Accurate McGregor strike cancels out Vlasic's opener for Croatia
But Modric stunner and Perisic header prove too much for Scotland
Croatia finish in second place in Group D; winless Scotland eliminated
There will come a day when Scotland finally make it to the knockout stages of a major tournament but, for another year at least, that agonising wait goes on. The Class of 2021 were desperately hoping to succeed where some of the greatest figures in Scottish football history - from Denis Law to Kenny Dalglish - had failed, but Croatia and a little magician by the name of Luka Modric had other ideas.
Make that 11 tournaments in which Scotland have failed to emerge from the group stage. In the end, they finished bottom of Group D and bow out with just one point and one goal to their name so this is no hard luck story, even if Callum McGregor’s first international goal is unlikely to be one he forgets in a hurry. The Celtic midfielder cancelled out Nikola Vlasic’s strike and at least kept the game interesting for a while longer until Scotland were eventually overwhelmed by Croatia’s superiority in the second half.
Modric restored Croatia’s lead with a goal of the tournament contender to cap another of those gorgeously understated performances of his before Ivan Perisic, another supposed veteran handsomely fighting the passage of time, twisted the knife late on and left a crestfallen Hampden Park to retreat home to wonder when they will get to experience that part of tournaments where things really get interesting.
Croatia’s reward was second place in the group and a last-16 meeting with the runner-up from Group E in Copenhagen next Monday which, as luck may have it, may prove an easier passage to the quarter-finals than England end up getting.
Steve Clarke, the Scotland coach, may reflect on an inviting chance that fell to John McGinn - probably Scotland’s best player on the night and certainly their most committed - four minutes before Modric took the game away from them but his team were a resolute if honest second best. “I’m proud the players managed to get here, for the first time in 23 years,” Clarke said. “It was a hardened tournament-team playing against a team in a first tournament for a long time. We’ll learn from it for sure. Croatia are a top team and they showed that tonight. I think through the three games we've acquitted ourselves well and showed our qualities. And we can improve. It's a young group of players and we want to improve together. We want to go again."
Scotland started the game with real ferocity, forcing a couple of corners in the first minute and having Croatia’s goalkeeper, Dominik Livakovic, scrambling to push away a cross from McGinn that Che Adams narrowly failed to connect with. It was a pace and tempo they were never going to be able to maintain but it took Croatia a good 10 minutes to get to grips with things before they began to assert control and the frustration for their coach, Zlatko Dalic, was that Scotland’s equaliser came with his side very much in the ascendency.
That goal three minutes before the interval was a huge shot in the arm for Scotland and a momentum buster for Croatia, even if that ultimately was as good as it got for the hosts. Andrew Robertson’s cross from the left was not dealt with by Croatia, a panicked Domagoj Vida stabbing the ball out only as far as McGregor, whose deft first touch allowed him to drill the ball through the legs of Dejan Lovren low into the corner with his second. What a time and what a way to claim your first international goal.
Boy did Scotland need that. The game had been drifting away from them and, after Vlasic’s goal, things went from bad to worse when they lost their defensive lynchpin Grant Hanley - so good in snuffing out Harry Kane at Wembley on Friday - to injury in the 33rd minute. His replacement Scott McKenna’s first contribution was to hack Vlasic to the ground and earn a booking. Scotland, it was fair to say, were wobbling.
The first goal they conceded will have disappointed Steve Clarke, too. Croatia worked the ball from left to right. There was no pressure applied to Josip Juranovic when he collected possession from Modric and he was free to swing over a deep cross that Perisic, rising above the pinned figure of Stephen O’Donnell, nodded down for Vlasic to sweep low into the corner with McGregor unable to close down in time.
With Croatia so strong in midfield, Clarke must have rued the loss of Billy Gilmour, of whom his country were cruelly deprived on the eve of the game due to a positive Covid test.
No Gilmour, and subsequently no Hanley, it was clear Scotland were going to have to find a way through such adversity. Scott McTominay, a midfielder by trade, equipped himself well in defence and took the lead in Hanley’s absence but Croatia were just too strong, too savvy and too slick and out-maneuvered opponents whose principal target was to lump it to the front two or pump in balls from wide areas.
McGinn may rue his decision to try to volley home McTominay’s deep cross in the 58th minute when it was there to be headed. Instead, the Aston Villa midfielder could only steer the ball wide and ended up clattering into Livakovic in the process.
World Cup finalists in 2018, Croatia’s golden generation may be in the twilight of their careers and the team not the force they were but Modric and Perisic are wily characters and their talents were supplemented by the cunning and running of 23-year-old Vlasic, a handful throughout.
Modric’s goal was a minor classic. Perisic fired in a cross that was turned into the path of Mateo Kovacic to lay off to Modric, who arced a wonderful shot into the top corner with the outside of his right boot. Moments like that remind you why he won the Ballon d’Or in 2018 and has been a mainstay in a Real side that have won four European Cups.
You could sense the home side’s deflation and when Perisic added a third with 13 minutes remaining, rising above McGregor to send a glancing header into the far side from Modric’s corner, Scotland’s hopes of making history were well and truly expunged.
Scotland have been eliminated at the group stages in all 11 of their appearances at major tournaments (Euros and World Cup).
Croatia have progressed from the group stages at three consecutive major tournaments (Euro 2016, 2018 World Cup, Euro 2020), having only progressed from the group stages in three of their first eight appearances at such tournaments.
Scotland have lost consecutive matches at Hampden Park for the first time since September 2019 against Russia and Belgium.
Croatia beat Scotland for the very first time in what was the sixth match between the two sides.
Scotland have won only one of their last nine competitive matches (D4 L4), having won six of their previous eight (D2).
Ivan Perišić has been directly involved in six goals in his last six appearances at the Euros for Croatia, scoring four goals and assisting two more. Perišić became Croatia’s joint-top goalscorer at major tournament (Euros and World Cup), equaling Davor Šuker’s nine goals.
Callum McGregor became the first Scottish player to score at the Euros since June 18 1996, when Ally McCoist scored against Switzerland. Scotland had gone 46 shots without scoring in the competition.
They gave it a lash, but Scotland ultimately came up short against a better side who deserved their win. At least Scotland scored.
Modric and Perisic were a class above for Croatia, who now progress to the last-16 from Group D in second place. And England top the group.
90+4 mins: Croatia 3 Scotland 1
Scotland push forward, searching for a consolation, as McTominay thrashes a shot away which is blocked by Lovren for a corner.
McKenna has a free header at the back post but it flies narrowly wide.
90 mins: Croatia 3 Scotland 1
Scotland press forward but Patterson runs down a blind alley on the right-hand side.
Croatia look to catch Scotland on the break, winning a corner for their efforts, which Modric slings along the ground to a team-mate in space, with hopes of killing the clock.
Four minutes of added time until the nail is hammered into Scotland's Euro 2020 coffin.
87 mins: Croatia 3 Scotland 1
Keep ball now for Croatia, with the atmosphere in Hampden flattening alongside Scotland's hopes for the tournament.
Croatia win a corner, which they try to keep in the corner.
84 mins: Croatia 3 Scotland 1
If the scores in Group D stay as they are, incidentally, then Croatia will actually progress in second place.
Adams and O'Donnell leave for Scotland and Patterson and Turnbull enter, but the game has gone now.
Perisic's probable winner
80 mins: Croatia 3 Scotland 1
Scotland won't be giving up without a fight, and Fraser and Adams look for a counter-punch at the other end, drawing a save out of Livakovic.
Scotland have 10 minutes plus added time to score three goals, otherwise they are heading out.
Kovacic drills a meaty shot, but it's straight at Marshall.
But Croatia come back and Modric puts a lethal corner in, and Perisic's glancing header at the near post - in front of Tierney - surely puts Croatia through.
Vlasic off, Ivanusec on for Croatia, incidentally.
74 mins: Croatia 2 Scotland 1
Adams and McTominay play a delightful one-two with Scotland on the attack, but the pass is asking too much of the United defender.
Fraser lets fly from distance after Tierney wins the ball back, but it's high and wide.
Time running out for Scotland - they need two goals, remember.
71 mins: Croatia 2 Scotland 1
A few changes:
Petkovic off for Croatia, Kramaric on. Gvardiol off, too, and Pasalic - the Ranger - on.
Fraser on for Scotland, Armstrong off.
69 mins: Croatia 2 Scotland 1
Robertson with a peach of a corner into the box and it's screaming out for a Scot to attack it with the head, but no one does.
No Croat gets to it, either, as it dribbles out for a throw-in; it has to go down as a chance.
Modric the magician
66 mins: Croatia 2 Scotland 1
Another reminder that Scotland are out as it stands. The winner of this match goes through, and a draw puts both teams out.
There has been a response from Scotland, however, with Juranovic putting McTominay's ball into Robertson behind for a corner.
Modric with a stunner for Croatia!
It's beautiful build-up play from Croatia, featuring a gorgeous touch from Petkovic, but the finish from Modric is out of this world.
Outside of his right foot, hitting it first time, from the edge of the area, and it curves and glides into the back of Marshall's top-right corner. He had no chance once again.
Scotland need two goals again!
61 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 1
A contentious call from the referee as McGinn breaks down the right and, after a tussle with Gvardiol, both players end up on the ground. It looked as if the Scot was fouled.
But the Croat is quicker to his feet, and the ball, and O'Donnell mis-times his challenge and Croatia are awarded the free-kick.
You can imagine how that went down with the Hampden faithful.
59 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 1
Better from Scotland - and there's a real chance for McGinn.
He's at the back post, he has snuck behind Gvardiol, it's a great run, but he cannot quite get his right-foot to the ball on the volley.
Scotland are dipping in and out of this game, but when they're in they look dangerous!
57 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 1
Danger for Scotland which, eventually, is called offside.
Perisic breaks in behind and he's one-on-one with Marshall, and the Scotland 'keeper makes a great save to deny the Croat.
It wouldn't have counted anyway, of course, but that's not the point.
55 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 1
Scotland look to counter from the corner but Armstrong's ball is a poor one, failing to locate Robertson.
Gvardiol has a tame right-foot effort on goal from the edge of the box as Croatia build momentum and rhythm. Scotland have lost some of that oomph from the beginning of the half. They have gone into their shells a touch.
53 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 1
Kovacic and Brozovic intertwine neatly in midfield as Croatia surge forward.
Juranovic plays a hooping ball into the back post but O'Donnell takes no chances and heads behind for a corner.
50 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 1
What a chance for Croatia - and what brave goalkeeping from Marshall.
Gvardiol with a corker of a run up the middle of the park, and Brozovic plays a pin-point ball in behind the Scotland defence to find his team-mate.
Marshall gets off his line rapidly to save Scotland, but both players collide and remain prone awaiting treatment.
47 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 1
As in the first half, Scotland have started this half with impetus.
And Croatia look a little sloppy, it must be said. A midfielder, I think it was Brozovic has just played a short pass directly for a corner.
And Flower of Scotland is ringing around Hampden.
Back underway at Hampden
No half-time changes.
45 minutes lie between Scotland and last-16 glory. If Croatia do not score again, Steve Clarke's side need one goal and one goal only.
McGregor enjoyed that one!
And what a time to score it; Scotland's first of Euro 2020 and a vital one at that.
It's all to play for at Hampden!
A stunning McGregor strike equalised for Scotland after Vlasic's opener for Croatia.
A reminder that the winner of this goes through, the loser will be knocked out, and if it's a draw both sides go home.
It's like an episode of Goldenballs!
45+1 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 1
Robertson with a beauty of a diagonal pass to find McGinn, but Croatia track back well to thwart the danger.
A reminder that, as it stands, both of these sides will be eliminated - you wouldn't know it!
The noise inside Hampden now!
There has been a massive swing in momentum, too.
Croatia were looking comfortable and now it's all Scotland - Livakovic has to come and punch a probing ball with Adams prowling.
Scotland are level!
McGregor the man with a stunning hit! Scotland's first tournament goal for 23 years.
A decent ball from Armstrong down the right is headed away by Lovren, but Scotland flood back. Vida's clearance travels only as far as McGregor on the end of the box and he shifts the ball niftily from right to left foot before drilling it into the bottom corner.
Game on now!
40 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 0
Perisic finds a pocket of space down the left, before cutting back inside and catapulting a shot at Marshall's goal. But, again, it is high and wide.
37 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 0
With how things stand at the minute, England will qualify as group winners, Czech Republic will qualify in second on goal difference, and Croatia will qualify in third. Scotland will be eliminated.
Meanwhile, in an anxious moment for Scotland, Gvardiol breaks down the left and after some glitzy interplay, Juranovic blasts a long-range effort high and wide.
34 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 0
And... McKenna's first involvement is to miss the ball as he challenges Petkovic and receive a yellow card for his troubles.
Talk about a baptism of fire - this is McKenna's first appearance in the tournament!
32 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 0
Hanley is down for Scotland - and he's shaking his head.
Looks like McKenna is coming on - that's the end of Hanley's evening.
31 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 0
A Scotland attack breaks down as Tierney's cross is played behind Dykes, and Gvardiol, the talented 19-year-old, gets Croatia out of trouble consummately, putting a Scottish defender on his backside in the process.
Modric flicks the cutest pass into the path of Petkovic but he is offside.
The moment that (might) break Scottish hearts
27 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 0
Yellow card for Lovren after a clumsy challenge on Adams - he will miss Croatia's next game (if there is one!)
McTominay has a long-range header from the edge of the box, but it's an elementary save for Livakovic
25 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 0
Top riposte from Scotland - they are back in it.
A double chance for McGinn - the former after a silken ball from Armstrong, which McGinn tries to head back across goal but he might be wishing he'd had a pop himself.
Croatia make a meal of the clearance and McGinn has another pop on goal, but he's under tonnes of pressure and can't get any power behind it.
21 mins: Croatia 1 Scotland 0
Hampden is slightly subdued after that goal - and understandably so.
It's all Croatia now, too, with Scotland struggling to keep hold of possession.
Modric has a super strike from distance and Marshall makes a cracking save to tip it over the bar. The referee, inexplicably, awards Scotland a goal-kick...
It's Vlasic - slightly against the run of play.
Juranovic plays a ball into Perisic at the back post before Vlasic blast the ball into the bottom-right corner of Marshall's net. The goalkeeper had no chance.
A massive ask now for Scotland. They need two goals - at least.
16 mins: Croatia 0 Scotland 0
Vlasic seems to have a sniff in space in behind but Marshall gets off his line superbly to swiftly halt the Croat.
13 mins: Croatia 0 Scotland 0
Things have calmed down a little at Hampden now, as Dykes snaffles the ball from Gvardiol.
McGinn plays the ball to Adams in space, before O'Donnell gets hold of it out wide and thrashes a shot at Livakovic
9 mins: Croatia 0 Scotland 0
Vlasic tries to flick a ball into the path of Modric, who is running in behind, but the winger cannot quite get the ball under control.
Adams has a long-range effort down the other end but it's narrowly wide. Adams is adamant it has touched a Croatian hand on its way but the referee is unconvinced.
6 mins: Croatia 0 Scotland 0
O'Donnell shows great composure at the back to clear after dispossessing Vlasic.
And Scotland counter!
After a sweeping attack, McGinn puts a pearl of a ball into the box, and Adams is a whisker from putting it into the back of the net; Livakovic doing just enough to put the striker off. That was a chance. Encouraging signs for Scotland.
4 mins: Croatia 0 Scotland 0
Robertson catches Juranovic after he is beaten to the ball and Croatia quell the early Scotland momentum with a free-kick.
The 2018 World Cup finalists push forward, keeping possession nicely, before Juranovic puts a pall into the box.
Croatia are flagged offside, however.
2 mins: Croatia 0 Scotland 0
Robertson swings the cross in but Croatia head away for another corner.
Take two for Robertson, who swings another cross in, but Livakovic does well to get in front of Dykes to punch clear.
We are underway at Hampden Park and Scotland win a corner in the opening seconds of the game!
Flower of Scotland
That was a raucous, rousing rendition.
There is little chance that a lack of heart and desire will be Scotland's downfall tonight.
Kick-off is next!
Both teams are out, to a welcome of buzzing jubilation.
The atmosphere is electric in Glasgow. Here come the anthems...
From one champion....
... to others?
There is a real Hampden Roar tonight, too. Graeme Souness can't speak on TV without holding his finger to his ear, holding his earpiece in.
Pre-match chatter to ITV
Scotland midfielder, John McGinn:
Feeling good! The boys know the task at hand - three points. It's not going to be easy but we've watched a lot of Croatia over the past couple of days.
But we'll have to be at our best. We need to play with the same belief and determination as the other night. Against England we played with bravery, commitment and quality and if we go and do that we'll give ourselves a chance.
The atmosphere on the first day is one I'll never forget but tonight hopefully we can give them a goal and a result that we'll remember forever.
Scotland manager, Steve Clarke:
The performance of the players the other night meant they deserved to go again.
It's difficult to tell [how tonight will be approached]. The start of the game might be a bit cagey but I've been wrong before.
We need the crowd from the first minute until the last and I know they'll be there for us.
The mood in the camp has been good from the very start.
Let us know which way you think tonight's matches are going to go.
Yes Sir, I Can Boogie
Graeme Souness has just agreed on ITV to sing Scotland's unofficial anthem live on TV if the Scots win tonight.
So... Come on Scotland!!!
She's had a busy week, but Nicola just got her tweet in on time. Top fan.
A massive night or Scotland
And Stuart Armstrong, in particular, coming in for the Archduke of Ardrossan, Scotland's darling against England, Billy Gilmour.
Scotland have only ever won two matches at the Euros - to qualify tonight, they have to win a third. And, for that, they will have to do something they have not done so far in this tournament - score a goal.
And there will be 12,000 fans in Hampden tonight.
A reminder of those starting XIs...
Fifty minutes until kick-off...
A surrogate Scot for the evening
For Croatia, Juranović, Vlašić and Petković start and Brozović returns after missing the draw with the Czech Republic in four changes to the starting XI.
For Scotland, Stuart Armstrong comes in for Billy Gilmour, who is ruled out due to his Covid positive.
Croatia (4-3-3): Livaković, Perišić, Lovren, Kovačić, Modrić (c), Brozović, Vlašić, Petković, Vida, Juranović, Gvardiol.
Substitutes: Kalinić, Sluga, Vrsaljko, Barišić, Ćaleta-Car, Brekalo, Kramarić, Budimir, Pašalić, Rebić, Badelj, Ivanušec.
Scotland (3-4-1-2): Marshall, O'Donnell, Robertson (c), McTominay, Hanley, Tierney, McGinn, McGregor, Dykes, Adams, Armstrong.
Substitutes: Gordon, McLaughlin, Christie, Fleck, Gallagher, Cooper, Turnbull, Nisbet, Fraser, Patterson, Forrest, McKenna.
Lorraine's on board!
The wonders of Photoshop...
Atmosphere building nicely in Glasgow...
Why are no other Scotland players isolating but England’s are?
Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have been ruled out of England's Euro 2020 clash with the Czech Republic on Tuesday - follow all build-up here - and must remain in isolation until the start of next week.
England's preparations for their final Group D match were thrown into chaos on Monday when it emerged the Chelsea pair had been in contact with Scotland's Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus.
The decision to force players into isolation hinged on whether they were deemed a "close contact" of Gilmour's in recent days. The likes of Gary Lineker have described apparent differences in Covid protocols as "odd", but the Scottish FA told Telegraph Sport it was acting under specific instructions from Public Health England.
We have answered the key questions on the furore - and you can read them here.
Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of tonight's Group D match between Croatia and Scotland from Hampden Park. Steve Clarke's side need a win to guarantee last-16 qualification - as do Croatia - but a draw and both sides are packing their bags.
As Roddy Forsyth writes, aside from Billy Gilmour, who will be alone in his hotel room while his colleagues attempt to overcome Croatia tonight to reach the knockout stage of the Euros for the first time, the great absence for Scotland is that of goals.
In 15 games this season, they have scored 14, four of which were against the Faroe Islands, for the loss of 12. Most significantly, the Scots have not found the mark in this tournament and came closest with a Jack Hendry shot off the crossbar against the Czechs.
The mantra from within the Scottish camp is that they are at least making chances. Indeed, Clarke’s players are the fifth-most likely of the 24 contenders to shoot, but 57 per cent of their attempts are blocked – the highest in the tournament, before Monday's fixtures – and they are also in fifth place for efforts from close range, in their case from an average of 16.4 yards.
In Group D they have had the highest number of attempts of the four contenders and the greatest number on target. Clarke has said more than once that there are goals in the squad and he repeated his assertion in his pre-match briefing. “If we keep creating the chances that we’ve created and we keep having the shots at goal that we’ve had in previous matches, then you’d like to think that luck will be on our side and one will hit the back of the net – or at least one,” he said.
Lyndon Dykes has been a regular first choice over the past year, although his personal tally of two goals from 14 appearances is low, even for a Scotland striker in recent times. That said, Clarke is an admirer of Dykes’ disruptive attributes which, when effective, as seen against England, create space in and around the penalty area for those around him.
The QPR forward has been partnered on several occasions with Celtic’s Ryan Christie, with mixed results. Ryan Fraser has formed another pairing with Dykes, who supplied the Newcastle man with the assist for his winner in the 1-0 Nations League victory over the Czech Republic at Hampden in October.
Oli McBurnie is another who has been stationed alongside Dykes but the fans and pundits have taken to Che Adams’ appearance in that role of late and when the Southampton forward netted against Luxembourg in the Scots’ final warm-up match this month, it was his Australian-born partner who supplied the assist.
As Scotland chase elusive goals, others must play their part and it was heartening to see Hendry score his first international goal against the Dutch on June 2. Kevin Nisbet, the Hibs player who scored 18 goals for his club this season, also netted his first Scotland goal within seconds of replacing Dykes against the Netherlands.
It seems likely that Dykes and Adams will start again tonight, although the manager was characteristically combative when asked what his head was telling him as he pondered his options for this potentially historic tie.