Glasgow (AFP) – Scotland’s return to a major international tournament for the first time in over two decades ended in a 2-0 defeat on Monday thanks to an excellent double from the Czech Republic’s Patrik Schick, as Covid-hit Spain prepare to launch their bid for a record fourth continental crown.
The Scots, absent from showpiece summer events since the 1998 World Cup, were sunk by Bayer Leverkusen striker Schick in front of 12,000 fans at Hampden Park.
Day four’s action later moves to Saint Petersburg where Robert Lewandowski’s Poland face Slovakia before a new-look Spain tackle Sweden in Seville without captain Sergio Busquets who tested positive for coronavirus.
In Glasgow, Scotland started brightly but fell behind shortly before half-time as Schick headed home Vladimir Coufal’s cross.
There was even better to come from the 25-year-old Schick, as he struck a high, curling shot from just inside the Scotland half over the head of back-pedalling Scottish goalkeeper David Marshall and into the net.
“The ball bounced back, the goalkeeper was quite high, I took a look, I saw he was out there so I slammed it in,” said Schick.
Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik made two important second-half saves from Scotland striker Lyndon Dykes as the hosts tried to force their way back into the game.
But there was no way through for Steve Clarke’s men, as the Czech Republic moved top of the early Group D table ahead of their game with Croatia at Hampden on Friday.
“We want to advance, we are now facing the two favourites, sometimes you can get there on three points, but I think we’ll have to clinch one more to be sure,” said Czech Republic coach Jaroslav Silhavy.
The Scots will next face old rivals England, who made a successful start to their campaign with a 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday, at Wembley on Friday.
“We need to take the experiences of today, learn from what happened and make a few little tweaks to our game,” said Scotland midfielder Stuart Armstrong.
– Covid-hit Spain face Sweden –
Later on Monday, three-time winners Spain welcome Sweden to Seville after their Group E preparations were badly affected by Covid-19.
Skipper Busquets is still self-isolating at home after testing positive for the virus, with Jordi Alba set to take the captain’s armband.
Defender Diego Llorente was only allowed to rejoin the group on Saturday after giving a fourth consecutive negative test.
Luis Enrique’s training plan was thrown into disarray last week, with the squad training individually and the last friendly against Lithuania passed over to the under-21s.
“It’s been a tough week, without doubt, but no complaints, no excuses,” said Luis Enrique.
“We have a great squad and we are excited for the first game.”
– Eriksen ‘stable, good’ –
The action on the pitch in the pan-European tournament — delayed a year by the coronavirus pandemic — continues with Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen still in hospital following Saturday’s shocking collapse.
The 29-year-old’s condition was described as “stable” and “good” by the Danish Football Union 48 hours after his cardiac arrest playing for his country against Finland in Copenhagen.
Teammate Kasper Schmeichel questioned the decision the team faced over whether to restart the match after Eriksen’s mid-game medical emergency. When the match did resume, Denmark lost 1-0.
“We were put in a position that I personally feel that we shouldn’t have been put in,” said the Leicester City goalkeeper.
Schmeichel said he wished someone more senior had stepped in to say “that it wasn’t the time to take that decision, and that we should maybe wait until the day after to decide”.
“What has happened has happened, and hopefully they’ll learn from this,” Schmeichel said, as he praised what he considered the real “heroes” of the game, the medics.
The players were able to talk to Eriksen via a video call on Sunday.
“He said in his own way that we should look forward to the game on Thursday (against Belgium). It meant a lot,” said midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who missed a penalty against Finland after the restart.
World Cup holders France are the favourites to win the continental crown and they begin their campaign against Germany in Munich on Tuesday, with holders Portugal facing Hungary in the other Group F match.
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