Scotland’s return to a major international tournament for the first time in over two decades ended in a 2-0 defeat at Euro 2020 on Monday thanks to an excellent double from the Czech Republic’s Patrik Schick, as Covid-hit Spain prepare to launch their bid for a record fourth continental crown.
The Scots, absent from showpiece summer events since the 1998 World Cup, were sunk by Bayer Leverkusen striker Schick in front of 12,000 fans at Hampden Park.
Later on day four of the tournament, Slovakia edged out 10-man Poland 2-1 in Saint Petersburg while Spain rued a host of missed opportunities against Sweden.
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In Glasgow, Scotland started brightly but fell behind shortly before half-time as Schick headed home Vladimir Coufal’s cross.
There was even better to come from the 25-year-old Schick, as he struck a high, curling shot from just inside the Scotland half over the head of back-pedalling Scottish goalkeeper David Marshall and into the net.
“The ball bounced back, the goalkeeper was quite high, I took a look, I saw he was out there so I slammed it in,” said Schick.
Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik made two important second-half saves from Scotland striker Lyndon Dykes as the hosts tried to force their way back into the game.
But there was no way through for Steve Clarke’s men, as the Czech Republic moved top of the early Group D table ahead of their game with Croatia at Hampden on Friday.
“We want to advance, we are now facing the two favourites, sometimes you can get there on three points, but I think we’ll have to clinch one more to be sure,” said Czech Republic coach Jaroslav Silhavy.
The Scots will next face old rivals England, who made a successful start to their campaign with a 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday, at Wembley on Friday.
“We need to take the experiences of today, learn from what happened and make a few little tweaks to our game,” said Scotland midfielder Stuart Armstrong.
POLAND RUE RED CARD
Poland will rue Grzegorz Krychowiak’s 62nd-minute second yellow card in Russia as the Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder became the first player to be sent off in this year’s tournament.
Slovakia had taken an 18th-minute lead when Robert Mak’s shot hit the post and bounced in off Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny before Karol Linetty levelled shortly after the break.
The game was settled with 21 minutes to play, though, as Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar drilled in to give Slovakia a winning start to Group E.
SPAIN BREAK RECORD IN FRUSTRATING DRAW
Three-time champions Spain were held to a 0-all draw with Sweden despite enjoying a lion’s share of possession.
Spain had several opportunities and completed 419 passes in the first half – the highest figure in the opening 45 minutes of a European Championship game since data was available.
Yet it could not capitalise.
Spain were badly affected by Covid-19 with skipper Busquets still self-isolating at home after testing positive for the virus.
Defender Diego Llorente was only allowed to rejoin the group on Saturday after giving a fourth consecutive negative test.
Luis Enrique’s training plan was thrown into disarray last week, with the squad training individually and the last friendly against Lithuania passed over to the under-21s.
“It’s been a tough week, without doubt, but no complaints, no excuses,” said Luis Enrique.
“We have a great squad and we are excited for the first game.”