In what was the definition of a must-win showdown in front of 12,000 fans on Tuesday night, Croatia secured their spot in the knockout stage and a second place finish in Group D thanks to a 3-1 win in Glasgow.
With the 2018 World Cup finalists opening the scoring thanks to Nikola Vlasic’s strike with just 17 minutes on the clock, Steve Clarke’s side managed to claw a route back into the game as Callum McGregor blew the roof off of Hampden with an equalizer five minutes before the break.
However, entering the break with just 21% possession to their name, The Tartan Army’s European dreams came to a heart-breaking end as Croatia’s biggest stars wrapped up the game with a dominant second-half display on foreign soil.
Failing to build off of that rugged performance at Wembley four days prior, we have taken a look at the major talking points after Tuesday’s Group D finale.
Modric inspires Croatia
Knowing that they had to clinch victory at Hampden on Tuesday to avoid what would have been a nightmare campaign after their success three years ago, Croatia really saved their best for last in Glasgow.
Failing to lay down much of a marker after mustering just a single point from their opening two Group D matchups over the past 10 days, The Blazers had really gained a reputation for their issues since that World Cup final appearance out in Russia.
A squad that is going through somewhat of a transition and seeing the likes of Ivan Rakitić and Mario Mandžukić retire from international duties in recent times, it was one of Croatia’s old guard who put in a monumental display on foreign soil.
Making an impact at both ends of the pitch and simply controlling proceedings in the middle of the park, Luka Modric topped off his outstanding display with a thunderous strike to break Scottish hearts with half an hour to play.
Finishing off the Croatian move as he smashed past David Marshall with the outside of his right boot, the Real Madrid superstar also produced the corner which Ivan Perišić glanced home to wrap up the game with 13 minutes remaining.
Huff and puff not enough for Scotland
While Scotland might have gained a string of plaudits after their rugged display in that 0-0 stalemate against Group D winners England four days ago, The Tartan Army largely failed to build off of that success.
Despite being backed by a noisy partially filled Hampden on Tuesday night, their display in front of goal was once again an issue for Steve Clarke’s side and almost underlined what has been their major problem this summer.
Marking their 23-year return to the international stage with that 2-0 defeat against the Czech Republic in Glasgow, The Scots huff and puff was not enough to help them book their first-ever spot in the knockout stage of a tournament.
While the partnership of Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams might have caused some early problems for the former World Cup finalists, Callum McGregor’s first-half strike was just a minor boost for the home support.
With Scotland’s goalscorer admitting after Tuesday’s finale that they were simply outclassed, Clarke will still be wondering what could have been as a number of half-chances went begging.
Watching both John McGinn and substitute Scott McKenna miss chances in the six-yard box, The Scots leave this summer’s tournament with just a single strike to show for their troubles.
What’s next for The Blazers?
Wrapping up their deserved 3-1 victory at Hampden and managing to extend on their European adventure, Croatia’s margin of victory was also enough to earn them second place in the group ahead of the Czech Republic on goals scored, with both those sides advancing to the last 16.
With it all still up in the air as to who they will face after booking their trip to Copenhagen next week, all eyes in their camp will be focused on the final round of Group E fixtures on Wednesday night.
Knowing that they will meet the team that finishes second, that would be Slovakia as it stands. However, they could be leapfrogged by Wednesday’s opponents Spain, while group leaders Sweden could drop a place or two if they drop points against bottom side Poland, who could also still go through.
Opening this summer’s delayed tournament sat 14th in the FIFA rankings and priced as high as 40/1 to come out on top, Croatia’s performance on Tuesday night should give them a real morale boost.
Croatia: Livakovic (7), Juranovic (7), Lovern (6), Vida (6.5), Gvardiol (7), Kovacic (7.5), Brozovic (7.5), Modric (9), Vlasic (7), Petkovic (6.5), Perisic (8)
Subs: Barisic (6.5), Rebic (6), Ivanusec (6), Kramaric (6)
Scotland: Marshall (6), McTominay (7), Hanley (6), Tierney (6), O’Donnell (5.5), McGinn (7), McGregor (7.5), Armstrong (6.5), Robertson (6.5), Dykes (6.5), Adams (7)
Subs: McKenna (4), Patterson (4), Fraser (5), Nisbet (4)
Goals: Croatia: Vlasic (17′), Modric (62′), Perisic (77′) – Scotland: McGregor (42′)
Yellow Cards: Croatia: Lovern – Scotland: McKenna
Red Cards: N/A