Euro 2020 player focus: McGregor’s Hampden hero despite Scotland failure

The Celtic star’s first international goal will live long in the memories of the Tartan Army, writes Amarachi Orie.

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Callum McGregor scored Scotland’s first goal in a major tournament in 23 years against Croatia but it wasn’t enough to stop them crashing out of the Euros. 

Steve Clarke’s men were the only team not to have scored in their first two games of the group stages, making it a must-win game if they were to have a chance of qualifying for the knockout stage.

A 3-1 defeat means that Scotland will not be progressing to the last 16, having finished fourth in Group D with only one point. However, they will at least be going out having eventually broken the mould in the competition.

Scotland were the weaker, less-experienced side coming into the game. Midfielder Billy Gilmour, 20, was forced to isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 on Monday. 

The Chelsea youngster had made the most passes for Scotland so far in the competition but was now out of the line-up, meaning that another player was going to have to step up.

Initially, it looked as if that player would be Che Adams. He had made two attempts to score in the first 10 minutes of the game. However, the intent to score was soon diminished when Nikola Vlasic gave Croatia the lead in the 17th minute of the game. 

Croatia seemed to be at ease and in control. That was until McGregor reminded them why they should not get too comfortable. In the 41st minute, a ball into the box by Andrew Robertson found Adams, who could not get a hold of it. 

The ball was kicked back in an attempt to clear it but it found McGregor, who was standing just outside the 18-yard box. The Celtic player slotted the ball cleanly into the right-hand corner of the goal, enlivening the members of the Tartan Army in the Hampden Park stadium. McGregor’s first international goal had come when his team needed it most. 

There was hope after all. McGregor, with the support of his team-mates, had covered up the absence of Gilmour and taken on the role of both midfielder and striker. Energised by the magnitude of what had just happened, Scotland ended the half with the optimism that they could turn the game around.

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However, the momentum built up in the last moments of the first half was dissipated in the second. Croatia intensified their press in an attempt to get their lead back and they succeeded. In the 62nd minute, Luka Modric scored the second for Croatia and 15 minutes later Ivan Perisic added another goal to the tally.

Scotland are out of the Euros but at least they claimed a goal before exiting. They managed to hold England to a draw in their second match and score in their third. 

They have made progress with each match and inspired their fans, who can now have the hope that Scotland will be even more competitive the next time they get to play in a major tournament. 

As for McGregor, he has made a name for himself, by delivering the most memorable moment of the tournament for Scotland fans. 

Follow Amarachi on Twitter @iamarachii

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