June 21, 2024


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England 0-0 Scotland: ‘Real hope for Scotland but a wake-up call for England’

Dates: 11 June-11 July. Venues: Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Seville, St-Petersburg. Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for more details

The sound of Flower Of Scotland echoing around one end of Wembley and loud jeers emanating from the other provided the snap verdict on the goalless Euro 2020 meeting between England and Scotland.

This was the first time the old enemies had met in a one-off encounter at major men’s tournament since Euro 96 and that famous day when Paul Gascoigne’s wonderful goal – and the ‘Dentist’s Chair’ celebration that followed – lit up a 2-0 England win.

But no-one could be in any doubt about who was the happier this time around, on a night when the adversaries did battle amid a thunderous atmosphere despite the presence of only 22,500 fans inside a rain-swept Wembley.

Scotland were more than good value for a point that keeps them in the race for a place in the knockout phase ahead of their final Group D game against Croatia at Hampden Park.

And how Scotland’s rain-soaked followers let them know it as they gave manager Steve Clarke and his players a heroes’ reception when they went to the rain-soaked Tartan-clad hordes at the final whistle.

England’s supporters also let manager Gareth Southgate and his players know what they thought of a lacklustre display lacking in spark and threat – although the chorus of boos that greeted them at the conclusion did seem something of an overreaction.

No-one, least of all Southgate, would be deluded enough to describe this as a good England display – in fact for large parts it was dull – but it must be placed in the context of what is still a very healthy position going into their closer against the Czech Republic, where victory will see them top the group.

England’s performance will give concerns looking further down the line but they are still well placed with four points from two games.

As for Scotland, this was a superb response to their opening loss to the Czech Republic, Clarke showing once again what a smart operator he is and how this is a unified, talented band of players.

This was an occasion that revived the old rivalries inside and outside Wembley, with Scotland fans gathering in their colourful droves hours before kick-off.

Inside, England anthem Three Lions was less-than-well-received by the Tartan Army before they delivered a deafening version of The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond in response.

Inevitably, there was mutual jeering of the respective national anthems but pretty much unanimous approval as players took the knee before kick-off, barely audible boos swiftly drowned out by loud applause.

This is an international game that is like a local derby. Even team-mates can briefly fall out amid the combat, a fact clearly demonstrated by Chelsea pair Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour as they enjoyed a great running battle early on, the diminutive Scot making it clear he was not backing down in the physical challenges with his talented Stamford Bridge colleague.

It was Gilmour’s opening salvo on what was an outstanding first Scotland start. He was the best player on the pitch although the superb Kieran Kierney ran him close.

The draw will satisfy Scotland more than England but it is hardly a result that will devastate Southgate, either.

The difference came in the performances, the responses to those contrasting opening results for Southgate and Clarke.

Clarke’s gameplan worked to perfection, introducing Gilmour, using Manchester United’s Scott McTominay as an impressive defender and benefiting from the return of the fit-again Tierney.

Scotland knew exactly what they were about and no-one should run away with the idea this was a smash-and-grab point. Clarke’s side were trying to win this right until the last minute.

The Scots can take huge heart into their final game after giving themselves a shot at qualification. This is a performance to lift confidence and self-belief.

England, on the other hand, were a let-down, although once the dust settles Southgate can gather his thoughts and reflect things are not quite as bad as that rough reception they received at the final whistle might suggest.

Harry Kane
Harry Kane had just 19 touches before he was replaced on 74 minutes

Southgate’s main concern has suddenly come from an unexpected source: a strangely lethargic England captain Harry Kane.

Kane has not looked quite right in England’s opening matches, lacking his usual sharpness and threat. It may be a surprise to some that he has been substituted in both but not to those who have watched him.

He looked forlorn as he was replaced with 16 minutes left here but Southgate had to do something and Kane could have no complaints.

It would be ludicrous to reach for the panic button over Kane. He is undisputedly world class and who would back against him playing and scoring against the Czech Republic?

But Southgate and Kane must hope the spark fires up soon because in the wider context, he is arguably England’s key figure if they wish to go deep into the tournament.

And will Southgate now try something different and start Jack Grealish, the current England fans’ favourite and such a creative force? It will be tempting given this toothless display.

So it was scores even, honours mainly to Scotland, and work to do for England.

And, to the satisfaction of both England and Scotland, still the opportunity to move out of Group D and into the knockout stage of Euro 2020. It was good to have this game back.

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