Steve Clarke insists Scotland will bounce back after they exited Euro 2020 with a 3-1 defeat by Croatia at Hampden Park.
The Scots, playing in their first major tournament since the 1998 France World Cup, needed a victory in their final Group D fixture and had gone into the interval with renewed optimism after Callum McGregor’s strike after 42 minutes had cancelled out Nikola Vlasic’s 17th-minute opener for the Croats.
However, just after the hour mark, captain Luka Modric restored Croatia’s lead with a stunning strike before Ivan Perisic headed in a third in the 77th minute to clinch a deserved win to take the 2018 World Cup finalists into the last-16 with Scotland finishing bottom of the section with just one point and one goal from three matches.
Afterwards Clarke revealed his emotions, saying: “It is just disappointing that we are out. We wanted to stay in the tournament as long as we could. Disappointed that we haven’t managed to get out of the group stage.
“You have to give me tonight to get over that and in a few days we will sit down, we will take stock.
“I will look at my performance and the players’ performances and we will look at what we can do better in the future and we will make sure it is not 23 years before we go to the next tournament.”
Clarke was impressed by Croatia for whom Modric was immense. He said: “Hopefully they will take what you saw from Croatia tonight which is third game experience.
“They knew how to play the third game in a tournament, they were more ready than we were. We couldn’t hit the levels of Friday night against England so lots to learn for everybody, head coach included.
“We tried as hard as we could, we tried to get back in even at 2-1 and then conceded a third one from a set play which is disappointing.
“We are disappointed the tournament has ended early for us but we have a lot to be happy about, the way we got there after 23 years.
“We have a lot to be happy about, the way we approached the tournament, we tried to compete, tried to play as well as we could but unfortunately it was not quite good enough to get out the group stage and to the knockout round.”
Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic felt his side were worthy winners after qualifying in second place.
“We knew it was a matter of time before we scored the second goal, and then the third followed,” Dalic said.
“It was not easy, especially after a difficult 10 days of pressure. But I would like to thank everyone that supported us and believed in us.”