‘Party is over for Scotland. Now the hangover has hit’

Euro 2024 highlights: Germany thrash 10-man Scotland in tournament opener

Tom English

BBC Scotland’s chief sports writer at Allianz Arena

8 hours agoComments

The Scottish optimism that wafted across Munich throughout Friday always felt like a collective hypnosis, a belief fuelled by booze.

It was a dream those fans hung on to dearly, until Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala started turning it into a nightmare inside 10 minutes of their Euro 2024 opener.

The Tartan Army were under the mistaken impression that this was their party, but it wasn’t.

Their mortification was that, having paid through the nose to be here, many of them might have paid the same again to be anywhere else but Munich.

We can think back to those early shell-shocking moments and examine how they unfolded.

The wonderful Wirtz allowed space and time by his hesitant marker, Anthony Ralston.

Then a second; Kai Havertz running away from Ralston and setting up the equally brilliant, Musiala.

8 hours ago

Wirtz and Musiala took turns to drift over to Ralston’s side of the pitch, where, helpfully for them, Ryan Porteous also roamed.

The Scotland defenders were tag-teamed by two of the most gifted 21-year-olds in European football. Ralston was game but tormented and Porteous red-carded.

The German pair moved from right wing to left in search of their prey.

Goals three and four and five came later, but the only game that Scotland played after Wirtz and Musiala set the agenda was damage limitation and they lost that modest pursuit, too.

Some context here. Wirtz has been the great wonder of the Bundesliga this past season; 18 goals and 19 assists in a Bayer Leverkusen team that lit it up and won the league.

Quick and ruthless and 21 years old, to the surprise of precisely no-one in Germany, it was Wirtz who stuck the first dagger into Scotland’s collective heart

By contrast, Ralston, honest as the day is long but limited, can’t get into the Celtic team. He started six league games last season.

A bit-part player for Brendan Rodgers suddenly asked, on the back of an injury crisis at right-wing back, to metamorphose into a defender of European pedigree capable of putting Wirtz and Musiala back in their boxes.

Ralston ran more metres than any of his team-mates. He hung in there and fought an impossible fight.

Euro 2024: Scotland ‘looked a lesser team’ against Germany says David Moyes

There are others in this Scotland debacle who were never close to the pitch of the game. The senior men offered nothing. The experienced players who did so much to get them to this point never turned up.

John McGinn was indeed ‘Super’ for much of the journey to Germany, but he went out like a light here, if he ever flickered into life to begin with.

Callum McGregor and Scott McTominay were bystanders in the German rout.

Angus Gunn was pedestrian between the sticks.

Steve Clarke opted to leave Billy Gilmour, one of his more accomplished passers, on the bench, and the manager might get flak for that.

But would Gilmour in his pomp have made a difference? Not a chance.

Scotland’s malaise spread too far and too wide and the difference in quality was so embarrassingly deep that Gilmour from the start would have gone down with the ship just like the rest of them.

‘Scotland’s feelgood just flew out the window’

Clarke has a mountain of work to do, a mountain as high as the ski slopes that stand over the team’s training base near the Austrian border.

He promised that Scotland’s lacklustre performances of recent times would sharpen up once the competitive juices of tournament football started flowing again.

No. This was just a continuation of a theme, a recurrence of frailties that are fast becoming the rule rather than the exception.

A goal different of minus four is a doomsday scenario, surely a million times worse than anything Clarke could have imagined as he ran through every conceivable outcome in his head.

He now has a squad on his hands that talked a good game leading into this but who couldn’t manage a shot on goal not to mind a shot on target.

Germany were almost effortlessly superior, scored five and could have scored six and seven once Porteous exited after a lunge that made anybody watching it wince almost as much as Ilkay Gundogan, who happened to be on the end of it.

Uefa Euro 2024: Kai Havertz scores penalty after Porteous red card.

Porteous had that kind of recklessness in his game for years, then matured.

The self-destruction returned in Munich and where this horror show leaves Scotland is a question that will addle the brain of everybody involved in it until they get a chance to made amends against Switzerland on Wednesday.

They need four points to make it through now – or Everest as it might otherwise be known.

You imagine that they will retreat to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in silence. The feelgood just flew out the window.

On Saturday, one of their number will sit at the top table of a news conference and talk about how their campaign is far from over.

They’ll say you don’t become a bad team overnight, how they owe it to everybody to come back strong against the Swiss, who’ll be relishing Scotland’s discomfort and warming themselves on their goal difference.

Scotland have nowhere else to go except into the world of the siege mentality. They have no other patter to spin.

The party is over and the hangover has hit. Just how long it lingers will determine what happens next.

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