𝚄𝙴𝙵𝙰 𝙴𝚄𝚁𝙾 𝟸𝟶𝟸𝟶 𝙶𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚙 𝙳
𝙴𝚗𝚐𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝟶:𝟶 𝚂𝚌𝚘𝚝𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚍
𝘓𝘦𝘦 𝘎𝘢𝘥𝘴𝘣𝘺 𝘉𝘢𝘴𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘢𝘷𝘢𝘳,
𝘎𝘢𝘥𝘴𝘣𝘺’𝘴 𝘌𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘦𝘧 𝘌𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘊𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵
𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘎𝘢𝘥𝘴𝘣𝘺’𝘴 𝘌𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥
One of the England fans’ favourite chants is “Scotland get battered everywhere they go”. After outplaying England for large periods and frustrating them to a 0-0 draw—incredibly the first ever at Wembley between the auld enemies—perhaps they should consider replacing “battered” with “better”.
A wounded Scotland came to Wembley to play an England, if the post-Croatia rhetoric was to be believed, in rude health. By the end of the evening, it became pretty clear neither label was accurate. Scotland reminded us they possess a lineup consisting of the best talent they have produced in years, England that even with the abundance of riches Gareth Southgate has at his disposal, there remain uncertainties, worries and riddles, all manifest by what we saw on the pitch.
In the midfield conductor McTominay, the precocious young pretender Gilmour, the rock solid Tierney, and after this evening, quite simply the world class Robertson, Scotland have a quartet able to grace the highest level of the game. Their manager, Steve Clarke, was without the middle two against the Czech Republic, but on Friday their presence reverberated around this pantheon of world football. And, marshaled by the superlative Robertson, Scotland produced what will surely be considered one of their greatest displays.
The Scots cajoled and harried England, bursting with energy and movement from start to finish, courageous to the last boot stud. There was no lack of desire or effort from England, it was just that they could not work out where to apply it. They could not find a rhythm, a tempo, or any kind of consistency, simply because Scotland would not budge. Whenever England found their breathing, Scotland found a way to constrict it.
In terms of the overall tournament picture, this match has done little damage to England. They now have four points, in all likelihood enough to reach the knockout stages. A draw with the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening would see England finish second in the group, but manager Gareth Southgate will surely demand a convincing win to complete the group stage, even though it will almost certainly set up a jaw-dropping last-16 clash with France, Portugal or Germany. Limping into knockout stages is what England have done all too often, and it inevitably ends badly—at the World Cup in South Africa, after a drab 1-0 victory over Slovenia in the final group game, England were thrashed 4-1 by Germany in the last 16. At the last European Championships, England limped into the last 16 off the back of an abysmal, goalless and lifeless draw against Slovakia in Lyon. The nightmare in Nice that followed we dare not even speak of…
Scotland have every reason to go into their final group game against Croatia at Hampden full of confidence; if they press anywhere near as hard and move anywhere near as quickly, they will surely trouble a tiring Croatian side and stand a real chance of reaching the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time. (Note to the Scots: We have been in similar scenarios before, though, haven’t we, Scotland? With this exciting, vibrant team, the best you’ve had in years, how about writing a new page this time?)
This was an exasperating night for the English. Perhaps, if in the opening few minutes, John Stones’ mountainous leap to head against the post had been more precise, if Mason Mount had made proper contact with Raheem Sterling’s adept assist, the narrative may have been different. Yet despite the Three Lions being tagged, constantly, as a team with one of the most formidable attacking lineups in world football, they have produced one goal in 180 minutes in this tournament, and if you include the two warm-up games against Austria and Romania, three in 360. Hardly a statistic that justifies the tag.
Harry Kane personifies this barrenness. He trudged off in the 74th minute, replaced by Marcus Rashford; if he was forgettable against Croatia, he was anonymous against Scotland, opponents he has plundered in the past. After two games in Russia, Kane had five goals under his belt; at the same juncture in this European Championships, he hasn’t been able to muster five shots. That is deeply worrying. All the talk of the Grealishes, Fodens, Mounts—it is Harry Kane who has been the focal point of Gareth Southgate’s England. So goes Kane, so goes England, many say. That is yet to be seen, but two games in, the bare facts are certainly enough to drain blood from England fans’ faces.
Although we can lament those missed chances when England took the early initiative, we should remember that later on, Jordan Pickford saved powerfully from Stephen O’Donnell and Reece James instinctively cleared Lyndon Dykes’ goal-destined shot. Scotland conjured just as much, if not more, opportunism throughout the evening. Their players were rewarded at the final whistle with an eruption of Scottish jubilance, something not seen at Wembley for many a year, and at the new Wembley, never. The Tartan Army officially numbered 2,500; if that were true, they must have mastered some kind of instant cloning of each other, because there were more kilts here than at Culloden.
In contrast, England supporters roundly booed. Hopes and expectations, eh? The boos will likely turn to groans because the Scots will no doubt remind the English of this evening till the end of time. And you can’t really blame them because really, Scotland beat England 0-0.
20 Foden (Substituted for Grealish at 63′)
9 Kane (Substituted for Rashford at 74′)
* 6 Maguire
* 7 Grealish
* 8 Henderson
* 11 Rashford
* 12 Trippier
* 13 Ramsdale
* 16 Coady
* 17 Sancho
* 18 Calvert-Lewin
* 21 Chilwell
* 23 Johnstone
* 26 Bellingham
2 O’Donnell (Booked at 87′)
23 Gilmour (Substituted for Armstrong at 76′)
7 McGinn (Booked at 15′)
10 Adams (Substituted for Nisbet at 86′)
* 11 Christie
* 12 Gordon
* 14 Fleck
* 16 Cooper
* 17 Armstrong
* 19 Nisbet
* 20 Fraser
* 21 McLaughlin
* 22 Patterson
* 24 Hendry
* 25 Forrest
* 26 McKenna
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Spain)