Connect with us

Football

Five things we learned as Scotland were held to a draw in last Euro 2024 warm-up game

Published

on

Robertson also provided the assist for the second four minutes later when he picked out Lawrence Shankland at the back post. The Hearts striker did well to get ahead of his marker and head beyond Jesse Joronen.  

But a morale-boosting victory eluded Scotland. Benjamin Kallman pulled one back for the Finns and the visitors then drew level from the penalty spot. Craig Gordon, who had come on for Angus Gunn, fouled Tomas Galvez inside his own area and Oliver Antman made no mistake from 12 yards.

The disappointing final 20 minutes, even though Clarke had made a raft of substitutions by that stage, very much took the gloss off the evening. They were given a warm send-off by their supporters regardless. But they will board their flight for Germany on Sunday knowing they must do better.

Here are five talking points from the encounter.

Room for improvement

Will the starting line-up which took to the hallowed turf at Hampden this evening be the one which Clarke opts for in the Allianz Arena in Munich?

If Scott McTominay continues to progress, as his manager is hopeful he will, then someone, possibly Ryan Christie, may have to drop out to make way for the Manchester United midfielder.

Could Shankland really be preferred to Che Adams up front too? It is possible, but it would be something of a surprise.  

Clarke, though, was clearly keen for his charges to build on their 2-0 triumph over Gibraltar in Faro on Monday night and maintain momentum and he put out a strong side.

He will have been encouraged by much what he witnessed – his men showed glimpses of the form they had displayed in qualifying against Cyprus, Spain, Georgia and Norway despite it being a non-competitive fixture.  

Defensively, they did not have a huge amount to do until the closing stages. But Kieran Tierney slid in and blocked a Joel Pohjanpalo attempt and Gunn dealt with a glancing Teemu Pukki header and a Casper Terho shot without any difficulty.

Scotland bossed possession, passed and moved sharply in the middle of the park and broke down both flanks. The crosses they swung into the visitors’ area were all cleared to safety and underlined that Lyndon Dykes will be missed.

Shankland did precious little in the first-half. But he did not receive the service he needed from his team mates. When he finally did so, he made no mistake. He was named Man of the Match after the final whistle.  

Germany, Switzerland and Hungary will all present far sterner tests in the next fortnight. Finnish full-back Ilmari Niskanen plays for English League One minnows Exeter City after all. There remains room for improvement in the coming days.

Ralston grabs chance

Anthony Ralston is only in the Scotland squad for Euro 2024 because Aaron Hickey of Brentford and Nathan Patterson of Everton are unavailable due to long-term injuries.

Ralston, who has hardly featured for Celtic this term, had much to prove when proceedings got underway. But the eight-times capped 25-year-old did his cause no harm whatsoever with an assured personal showing.  

He has enjoyed some impressive outings in a dark blue jersey in the past and he by no means looked out of his depth again. He did well to chase down and win the ball off of Niilo Maenpaa early on and played a good pass to Ryan Christie shortly afterwards.

Ross McCrorie of Bristol City only picked up his first full international cap against Gibraltar and is likely to be used as back-up.

There have been suggestions that James Forrest could be deployed at right wing back, as Ryan Fraser was in the past, but that would be a gamble and then some.

On this evidence, Ralston looks like a shoo-in.  

Captain fantastic

Andy Robertson captained Scotland for the 49th occasion against Finland tonight – one more than Rangers legend George Young had in the 1940s and 1950s and one more than any other man ever has.

The Liverpool left back has occasionally been accused of failing to perform to the same high level with his country as he does with his club.

But the former Queen’s Park, Dundee United and Hull City defender has grown in stature under Clarke and had an exceptional qualifying campaign. He looked fit and hungry this evening.

Right wing back remains an area of concern with Hickey and Patterson absent – but on the other side of the park there are no issues with Tierney and Robertson there.

They combined well for the opening goal. The skipper squared across goal and Hoskonen stuck out a leg and diverted the delivery over Joronen. Robertson did superbly to set up Shankland for his header.

Gordon farewell?

Craig Gordon is set to be one of the two players who is cut from the 28 man preliminary squad for the Euro 2024 finals – but Clarke put the Hearts goalkeeper on in the second-half all the same.

He was given quite a reception from the Scotland supporters as he made his 75th, and in all likelihood final, appearance. Chants of “there’s only one Craig Gordon” rang out around the packed ground.

The ex-Celtic and Sunderland man has been a fine servant for his country and deserved the farewell. He even donned he captain’s armband after Robertson and Grant Hanley had gone off.

The penalty which he gave away was unfortunate and harsh.  

Conway debut

Bristol City striker Tommy Conway was only called up to the Scotland squad this week after Dykes was forced to withdraw. But he made his debut in the second-half when Shankland came off and very nearly grabbed the winner in injury-time. He will benefit from his brief run-out.

Lewis Morgan, the New York Red Bulls winger, who was drafted in to replace Ben Doak yesterday, also came on to win his third cap when he took over from Christie in the closing stages.

The non-appearance of McTominay, who his manager had insisted would feature, was cause for concern.

Continue Reading