Scottish Daily Mail

Scots well beaten but it’s not quite a battering

- By Brian Marjoriban­ks

AFTER Scotland’s qualificat­ion for Euro 2024 was confirmed on Sunday night, the celebratin­g players were pictured dining out at the famous Blue Lagoon chip shop.

Spain beating Norway 1-0 in Oslo had just sealed the deal and an evening out in Glasgow concluded with pizzas and fish suppers being guzzled, 48 hours before facing World Cup runners-up France in their own backyard.

Yet, when the respective team sheets dropped an hour before kick-off last night, all across Scotland the fear was their heroes were about to sample an altogether different kind of battering in Lille.

A super strong French team boasted a midfield anchored by Real Madrid duo Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga behind a formidable front four of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and arguably the world’s finest player in Kylian Mbappe.

With Scotland missing key players like Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Aaron Hickey, Steve Clarke made eight changes, handing Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly a daunting debut.

There were also chances in the starting line-up for Greg Taylor, Liam Cooper, Lewis Ferguson, Billy Gilmour, Kenny McLean and Che Adams. but it was young Nathan Patterson who was handed the sternest test up against the pace, power and precision finishing of Mbappe. The 22-year-old was admittedly winning his 17th cap but such was the task he was facing, the memory turned back to Gary Caldwell being handed his Scotland debut by Berti Vogts in a 5-0 loss to then World Cup holders France in Paris. The enduring image of that night in 2002 was striker David Trezeguet mercilessl­y mocking Caldwell by holding up the requisite number of fingers to remind the young Scot of the four goals his side had plundered during the first half alone. Thankfully, Caldwell would overcome that experience to find redemption, scoring the winning goal against the French in a Euro 2008 qualifier at Hampden four years later. Yet, worryingly for Patterson, Mbappe is a far superior player to Trezeguet. Last season, the Paris SaintGerma­in star became the top French scorer in a single club and internatio­nal campaign, his 54 goals beating the previous record set by the legendary Just Fontaine in 1957-58. Despite a four-game barren run before scoring twice in the recent 2-1 win in the Netherland­s, Mbappe entered last night with 10 goals in 10 appearance­s this season.

Clips on social media showed the 24-yearold scoring an incredible overhead kick during France’s training session on Monday, tearing off his training top as he ran up the tunnel to celebrate in the virtually empty stadium.

And with just eight seconds on the clock without a goal, Scotland had already fared better than OSC Lille managed 14 months ago. That was the time it took Mbappe to strike the fastest goal in Ligue One history in a 7-1 win at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in August 2022.

Yet, incredibly, the Scots stunned their illustriou­s hosts when they took an early lead after Camavinga’s horrific error put the ball on a plate for Gilmour, who passed into the net for a memorable way to score his first senior goal for his country.

The early setback only angered the French, though, and Benjamin Pavard secured parity when he beat Patterson to glance Griezmann’s corner past Kelly.

Once described as a ‘motorbike’ of a player by Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, Mbappe was beginning to rev his engine.

When he roared past Jack Hendry, he put the perfect ball onto Pavard’s head for 2-1. Hendry had kept Mbappe quiet for Club Brugges against PSG in the Champions League last year but getting tight to the pacy frontman or leaving him in space is a conundrum few defenders or coaches can solve. And when Liam Cooper and Giroud pulled each other’s shirt, Mbappe was controvers­ially given the chance from the spot to grab his inevitable goal.

Kelly went the right way, and got a hand to the ball but could not grab a dream debut save. As Clarke had promised pre-match, Kelly’s night was always going to end at half-time and on came Hearts keeper Zander Clark for his own debut.

Clarke turned to his bench again with John Souttar and Jacob Brown handed game time and Scotland enjoyed a fine spell of possession.

But it was the French strength-in-depth that proved influentia­l when Griezmann struck the bar and substitute Kingsley Coman lashed home.

Marcus Thurman thumped the bar but the final score remained 4-1; a heavy defeat that did not quite fall into the realms of the total battering feared before kick-off.

And as Clarke’s well-beaten side trooped off at the end there was one comforting thought. These French favourites to win Euro 2024 will hand out a footballin­g lesson to far stronger teams than this Scotland second string.

 ?? ?? True test: Patterson battles with Mbappe
True test: Patterson battles with Mbappe

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