Scotland’s display against England was one for the ages and with more luck would have provided a famous victory at Wembley after the lifeless performance in their opener
- Scotland’s performance against England was enormous after the Czech loss
- It was a display that with a little more luck would have brought a famous victory
- Steve Clarke’s side though need to beat Croatia on Tuesday to progress
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
Aye, but can they do it on a wet Friday night at Wembley? When the mercury plummets and the pitch is slick underfoot, can they rise to the physical, mental and sporting challenge of getting the result a nation craves?
Yes they can. Against tournament favourites – at least in their own fevered imaginations – on home soil, Steve Clarke’s Scotland may only have secured a single point.
But this was always about more than just getting something on the board in their bid to progress to the knock-out stages of these European Championships.
Scotland bounced back from defeat with a brilliant performance against England
Though they couldn’t find the back of the net there were plenty of positive performances
England’s performance failed to match the occasion against a very impressive Scotland
After the lifeless, bloodless and joyless experience of that opening-day Group D loss to the Czech Republic at Hampden, the pressure on Clarke and his men was absolutely enormous.
Far from buckling under the strain, they turned in a performance for the ages. One that might, with a little luck, have produced a famous victory.
Should they go on to beat Croatia back in Glasgow on Tuesday night, the celebrations will of course be wild.
But they’ll do well to match the scenes at full-time of this 0-0 draw in London, as the Tartan Army rose to salute a team full of heroes.
The villains from just a few days earlier secured glorious redemption. Stephen O’Donnell, unfairly criticised for playing to his limitations against the Czechs, take a bow.
And a new fans’ favourite was born, as Clarke’s ambitious selection was rewarded with a performance full of quality as well as passion.
Stephen O’Donnell put in a good display after getting his critics following the last game
Wherever and whenever Scotland fans gather to discuss great days following or just watching the national team, this experience will undoubtedly feature prominently.
Those lucky enough to have been there can certainly claim to have seized the day, more than playing their part in a grand occasion.
They’d serenaded locals with battle hymns old, new and unashamedly borrowed from the kitsch end of the disco era.
And anyone walking up Wembley Way before kick-off would have needed bam-cancelling headphones to avoid the repeated choruses of a new favourite among England supporters, the gist of which seems to be: ‘Scotland get battered wherever they go.’ Quite.
Fair play to the resident DJ at England’s national stadium, though, for not simply forgetting about the visiting contingent.
Sure, he may be contractually obliged to play that tune about some sort of large cats on a shirt.
But the inclusion of Loch Lomond in the pre-match playlist gave this generation a chance to create their own Wembley moment.
20-year-old Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour impressed in his first start for Scotland
The promotion of Billy Gilmour to the line-up had already done much to lift their mood, of course.
The Chelsea midfielder got an even bigger cheer than Kieran Tierney when his name was read out in the starting XI here.
As they shivered in their shorts and replica shirts, hardly the first Scots ever to misjudge the changeable London climate, they appeared to be drunk on blind faith in the cause. Yes, let’s call it that.
Had they not been paying attention? Surely 20-something replays of Gazza’s goal here 25 years ago – and that’s just in the last 24 hours’ coverage of ‘other’ fixtures – had broken at least some of their spirit? No chance.
This fixture was what the tournament had been missing, of course. Rivalry. A game that men’s more than just points on the board or another step towards the next stage.
And, boy, the intensity was off the start from the anthems onwards. Both of these teams played with a fervour that went beyond even national pride.
Right from the kick-off, a ball shelled on top of Luke Shaw for the first of several no-holds-barred aerial challenges, it was clear that the Scots were here to scrap. And to play, when the chance arose.
John McGinn, so subdued against the Czechs, was a holy terror on the ball and a real pest without it, most notably in his tussles with Kalvin Phillips.
Kieran Tierney was a force of nature for Scotland both defensively and offensively
Gilmour versus Mason Mount, meanwhile, quickly became a contest that would have illuminated any game in world football, the Chelsea team-mates clearly relishing the chance to face each other with stakes so high.
England dominated possession in the opening stages, obviously. They could hardly do otherwise against a Scotland side effectively plaything with five at the back.
Had John Stones scored instead of hitting the woodwork with a free header just 11 minutes in, the home side could have argued that they’d done enough to merit a lead.
But he didn’t score, did he? Nor could any of his team-mates find a way to get behind the Scottish defences. At least not while staying onside.
Gradually, Scotland came into their own. Callum McGregor showed all the guile he can bring to the midfield. Gilmour asked for – and received – the ball in just about any situation.
And Tierney? Oh man. What a force of footballing nature he is. Not just defensively.
It was his cross that very nearly created an opener for the visitors on the half-hour mark.
Had Jordan Pickford not pulled off a quite stunning save, O’Donnell would have become one of the most celebrated players in Scottish footballing history.
Although Lyndon Dykes was still getting buffeted about, Che Adams was making some brilliant runs.
On the ball, every single player in blue looked suddenly comfortable. And they ended the first half demonstrating a modicum of control.
The half-time interval, indeed, found the away support gleefully analysing the many things that had gone well for their team. While always wary, naturally, of that imposter called hope.
England enjoyed a spell of incessant pressure at the start of the second half, no doubt with fresh instructions and exhortations ringing in their ears.
But Scotland’s game plan didn’t change much. It just became a little more obvious.
It was a great way to bounce back from the lifeless performance against the Czech Republic
Tyrone Mings on the ball? That’s OK. Harry Kane dropping into his own half to get involved, likewise.
Phil Foden running with the ball in broken play, that’s an obvious red light. The same went for virtually any England player getting within range to shoot – something they now did with increasing frequency.
Once again, however, the Scots began to show their ability on the ball. Their passing and movement went hand-in-hand with some of the specialised treatment handed out to England sub – and potential match winner – Jack Grealish.
They were clearly intent on hammering the Aston Villa star any time he got on the ball. And then capitalising on the chaos that followed.
The closing 20 minutes were, let’s not lie, exquisite torture. A merciless exercise in wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.
Surely this England team, this squad of likeable superstars and hardened competitors, would find a winner to put us all into our usual state of misery.
We thought it had come in injury time, during one of the great goal-mouth stramashes in international football history.
The whistle brought an end to that moment of terror. And then, just a minute or so later, sparked scenes that will live long in the memory of all who were here.
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