Scotland’s Callum McGregor experienced the highs and lows of underdog football at a major tournament this week, drawing against England, then scoring an equalizer against Croatia before his juiceless team watched Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic due what experienced, strong favorites usually do in a big game.
Modric scored an out-of-this-world goal and Perisic added a goal to his early assist as Croatia bounced back from McGregor’s low drive.
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“The lads are shattered,” said McGregor, who’s won 14 trophies with Celtic. “The fans were amazing again and we want to thank them for their input. [Modric’s goal] Iis what you’re up against at this level. It was a tough lesson.”
Aston Villa’s John McGinn, relentless in his performances, echoed McGregor.
“Devastated we’re not through,” McGinn said. “We came up against an excellent team tonight and they have experience at the major tournaments and they showed that tonight. I feel we didn’t do ourselves justice but we created history by coming here to a major tournament.”
What can that lesson do for the Scottish men, who were playing in their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup?
We’ll find out as qualifying for the 2022 World Cup continues, but McGregor expressed increased desire to taste another major tournament.
“It was a tough learning experience tonight against some really top players but it just gives you the hunger to come back again.”
Scotland is second in Group F of UEFA World Cup qualifying and has a massive three-game September with group favorites Denmark and Austria joining Moldova on the docket.
They’ve beaten the Faroe Islands while drawing Austria and Israel. How much will this experience help them? Probably a lot, given the buoyant feeling provided by drawing England.
Here’s goalkeeper David Marshall.
“The positivity was there after the England performance, and we’ve started the game well tonight, so it’s a big disappointment,” he said, via the BBC. “There are fine margins in games, but we can’t argue with the result really. The manager’s said to us that this is just the start of something and in a short space of time we’ll be meeting up to try to qualify for the World Cup. We’ve got tournament experience now, which will make us better as a group.”
Scotland coach Steve Clarke underlined, italicized, and bolded his thoughts on his team’s group-stage exit, seemingly looking for other ways to emphasize his words, too.
“I promise you it won’t be 23 years until the next one,” Clarke said.