John McGinn’s individual efforts were not enough for Scotland as their unbeaten run ended with a 2-1 defeat to Turkey in a friendly on Wednesday night.
After both countries missed out on the World Cup in Qatar, this was the start of their preparations for the Euro 2024 tournament, but Turkey looks set to prepare in the first hour.
Substitute Hakan Calhanoglu twice tested Craig Gordon from distance before slotting past former Liverpool on-loan defender Ozan Kabak (40) to put his hosts ahead before the break.
Scott McTominay and Grant Hanley’s free-kick was free and Kabak had already rattled the bar from a corner, Scotland looking vulnerable from set pieces.
The players had to be clear when Cengiz Under (49) squeezed his shot into the legs of Scott McKenna after a quick attack and it was a frustrating night for Steve Clarke, despite the seven changes he made. their game to advance the League of Nations with Ukraine in the final.
But McGinn’s (62) drive away from Caglar Soyuncu and a superb finish into the far corner inspired his teammates, who saw a penalty appeal waver and set Jack Hendry’s head over the bar as he fired a hard-hitting goal long into the final half-hour.
Scotland finished the game with Gordon at the last corner but there was no way back. Their four-match unbeaten run may be over, but there has been a late boost to qualify for the Euros, which begin on March 25 against Cyprus.
Scotland under their best but a strong finish
Scotland celebrated promotion to the Nations League Group A final, a huge win that confirmed the progress they had made under Clarke. Their record of just two defeats in 15 games in all competitions leading up to the tournament reflected this as well.
But an hour south-east of Turkey there was little evidence that Scotland had progressed to become Europe’s top side.
He was exposed again and again from the set-pieces, with Kabak threatening twice before scoring his opener. He was caught in the second half, sub McKenna assisted and Kieran Tierney got away before Under finished accurately.
In the middle, Billy Gilmour was unable to get on the ball, with the Turkish boss and a long stay in the Scottish half, where there were only headers for Lyndon Dykes and a couple of crosses into the six-yard box to shout. about the attack.
Their performance changed dramatically after McGinn’s goal. Suddenly Scotland were making good use of the ball, playing with swagger and creating a threat, boosted by a moment of magic from their midfield.
A stunning incident in which Irfan Kahveci elbowed Dykes in the face as he dived in the corner with his back to the ball should have been awarded a penalty and the visitors looked to be the ones to score late on.
They may be lost but the last half of Scottish football in 2022 was good – a good reflection of where this side is as a whole. Scotland boss Steve Clarke, missing his foreign players at Celtic as well as some regulars, will keep the game in good shape. Real work will resume for the team in four months…