Football Features

Five things learned as Euro 2024 Group A concludes: Scotland post embarrassing stat in group stage exit

By CJ Smith

Five things learned as Euro 2024 Group A concludes: Scotland post embarrassing in group stage exit

Published: 22:46, 23 June 2024 | Updated: 18:23, 25 June 2024

Matters on the pitch took a back seat at the European Championships on Sunday as Hungary striker Barnabas Varga was stretchered off the field in their match with Scotland in Stuttgart.

Varga appeared to be on the end of a nasty collision inside the Scotland box, with surrounding players quickly reacting as he hit the floor. The 29-year-old was stretchered off and taken to hospital after some on-field treatment. Thankfully, the Hungarian FA confirmed to the BBC that “Barnabas Varga is in a stable condition and is conscious in a Stuttgart hospital.”

In terms of the football, Scotland crashed out of another major tournament at the group stage as they conceded a 100th-minute goal to Hungary, while Germany just about confirmed top spot in Group A.

Here are five things we learned from Sunday night’s final round of Group A matches:

1. Scotland crash out at the group stage again

Although two points technically could have given Scotland a chance of qualifying as a third-place team, that chance would have been about as slim as Steve Clarke coming out of retirement and stepping out onto the field himself. The Tartan Army needed a win.

You wouldn’t think so, however, with their first-half effort, with Scotland failing to register a single shot and managing only six touches in the opposition box. Hungary weren’t that much better, managing five shots and just 0.17 xG, but they at least had the odd moment of quality in the final third.

Things improved after the break and both sides started to apply pressure, with Hungary in an even more desperate situation of absolutely having to win. And with defending becoming an afterthought and respective kitchen sinks being thrown at each other, it was the Hungarians who found the breakthrough in the 10th minute of added time, breaking away against a shorthanded Scottish defence and finishing with substitute Kevin Csoboth tucking away a pass from Roland Sallai, who just evaded the offside trap.

That’s 12 group-stage exits in 12 major tournament appearances for Scotland, although they’ll feel slightly robbed for not getting a penalty when Willi Orban brought Stuart Armstrong down in the box late on.

2. Germany hold onto top spot (just)

There’s no doubt that hosts Germany have been one of the highlights of the tournament so far, sweeping aside Scotland with ease before putting in a commanding performance against Hungary. On Sunday, however, they were brought back down to earth just a little bit with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland.

Sure, on the face of it, Die Mannschaft still dominated the game in a big way, outshooting their opponents 18-4 and winning the xG battle 1.70 to 0.60. And farewell tour star Toni Kroos was also at his metronomic best once again.

However, it wasn’t that straightforward.

It was Switzerland who took the lead after 28 minutes with Bologna’s Dan Ndoye scoring his first-ever international goal on his 14th cap to give the hosts a shock. From there, it was a case of whether or not Julian Nagelsmann’s side could break down a stubborn Swiss defence.

For a very, very long time, it looked like Germany wouldn’t manage it and heading into second-half stoppage time, Switzerland sat top of the group on seven points, with the hosts behind on six.

But then Niclas Fullkrug did what he does best, rising high in the box to meet a David Raum cross, beating Yann Sommer to deliver a point right at the death. That’s the Dortmund striker’s 13th goal in 19 caps for Germany, while he’s their record major tournament goalscorer from the bench with four such strikes.

In just a moment, Germany were back on top with seven points, while Switzerland have to settle for second place with five points.

3. Lack of firepower costs Scotland

If there’s one stat that sums up Scotland’s struggles at these Euros, it’s that they exit guaranteed to have the fewest shots on target of any team.

Clarke’s men managed just three shots on target throughout the entire tournament from 17 shots attempted — the latter also the joint-lowest alongside England, although the Three Lions have, of course, played a game fewer than their British rivals.

Losing Lyndon Dykes on the eve of the tournament didn’t help, of course. But there will be question marks over Clarke’s defensive tactics and team selection in the weeks to come. Scott McTominay has been in fine form for his country over the last couple of years, but he can’t do it all on his own.

“From a Scotland point of view, it was through no lack of effort, but the reality is a lack of quality has cost them. Particularly in forward positions,” said former England striker and BBC pundit Alan Shearer. “They were very rarely a threat. We were hoping rather than expecting.”

You just cannot succeed at a major tournament without a genuine, consistent goal threat.

4. Hungary face nervous wait over third-place fate

Given the events of the evening, it wasn’t surprising to see the Hungarian players full of emotion at the final whistle. Now, their nerves will be on edge as they sit back and watch every other group play out over the course of the next few days, waiting to see whether or not they’ll qualify as one of the best third-place teams.

At present, Marco Rossi’s men sit third in that six-team group on three points, putting them above Slovenia (2), Albania (1) and the Czech Republic (1). However, there’s a lot of football yet to be played and Hungary’s goal difference of -3 may well play against them; that 93rd-minute goal scored by Breel Embolo in the 3-1 defeat to Switzerland may well be costly.

Euro 2024 third-place teams ranking (top four go through):

  1. Austria: 3pts, +1
  2. Slovakia: 3pts, 0
  3. Hungary: 3pts, -3
  4. Slovenia: 2pts, 0
  5. Albania: 1pt, -1
  6. Czech Republic: 1pt, -1

5. Germany and Switzerland prepare for the round of 16

They don’t know who they’ll play yet, but Germany and Switzerland at least know where and when they’ll play their round of 16 clash. The respective technical teams of the two nations can also at least start taking educated guesses at who they’ll face based on the current make-up of the other groups.

Germany will head to Dortmund on Saturday to take on the runner-up of Group C. That, of course, is England’s group and if Gareth Southgate’s men don’t drastically improve from their last two performances, who would bet against them slipping into second? More likely for the Germans, though, is a clash against Denmark.

As for Switzerland, they’ll play in Berlin earlier on Saturday, coming up against the runner-up of Group B. Right now, that will be holders Italy, although there is still a chance of either Albania or Croatia sneaking into that spot. Either way, it’s going to be a tough one for Murat Yakin’s men.