Fans miss out on the quintessential Scotland tournament experience

<span>Scotland fans enjoy themselves in Cologne.</span><span>Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images</span>
Scotland fans enjoy themselves in Cologne.Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

THE SCOTTISH PLAY

As humans, our brains are hardwired to tell us stories about our lives – with us as the matinee idol main character, of course – such that there’s an entire academic subject and therapeutic industry devoted to unpicking them. And this intensifies for those of us who are football fans, our teams – by amazing coincidence – crystallising aspects of our personal character and our countries crystallising aspects of our national character.

In that context, there’ll have been many who saw the tousing Scotland took from Germany and thought it in perfect keeping with the above, lots of bluster followed by lots of embarrassment. Many, though, are unaware that the quintessential Scottish tournament experience tends to feature creditable efforts against the better sides – your Brazils and your Netherlands – undermined by execrable efforts against the worse ones – your Irans and your Costa Ricas. Consequently, though it was surprising that when chasing a winner against Switzerland, Scotland didn’t score once before contriving to concede twice, Steve Clarke fist-pumping at full-time was a plot-point in perfect harmony with the overarching thematic, all the more so given almost-eliminated Hungary await them in their must-win final group game.

Nor was Clarke the only one. Post-match, Andrew Robertson was eager to don his dead serious face and perform an exhibition of tub-thumping. “Much more like us,” he intoned; “aggressive, on the front foot,” he continued, praising an opening spell in which his side were handed a 1-0 headstart by a deflected goal. Naturally he also had words of praise for Tony Ralston who, after giving away the equaliser, gallantly refrained from doing further damage thereafter. Robertson then extolled, in dead seriousness, “two really good teams” ranked 19th and 39th in the world, and anticipated further improvement on Sunday against a third, Hungary, who are ranked 27th.

England’s embarrassments tend to come later in the tournament, and the likelihood is they’ll progress from their group whatever happens in today’s match. That too is in keeping with their national story – one of colossal expectation, monumental entitlement and meagre success. As such, though, they will expect to beat Denmark, a country that neither deifies football nor imbues with monomaniacal sociopathy, focusing instead on irrelevances like equality, community, safety, honesty, happiness, kindness, trust, social justice, a healthy national health service, free higher education, low crime-rates, properly subsidised childcare, generous pensions and free care helpers for the elderly; or, put another way, their dedication to the rare but sacred art of not being a complete and utter … England. The quid pro quo here is that they’ve won just as many major tournaments as have England. Which is to say that nothing is fixed: our stories and characters can be created afresh every day, even in football. But only if we want them to be.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Daniel Harris at 2pm BST for red-hot updates on Slovenia 0-1 Serbia, while Barry Glendenning will be on hand for Denmark 1-1 England at 5pm and Scott Murray will be here at 8pm for Spain 3-1 Italy.

SERBIA SPEAK OUT

Serbia have called on Uefa to punish Croatia and Albania after accusing their fans of hateful chanting during Wednesday’s game in Hamburg – and have even threatened to withdraw from the tournament if no action is taken. Jovan Surbatovic, the Serbian FA’s general secretary, said a formal complaint had been submitted, claiming that Croatia and Albania fans chanted “Kill, kill, kill the Serb” during the 2-2 draw. “What happened is scandalous and we will ask Uefa for sanctions, even if it means not continuing the competition,” Surbatovic said. “If Uefa doesn’t punish them, we will think about how to proceed.” Serbia play their second Group C game against Slovenia in Munich this afternoon.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Scotland vs Switzerland. What a terrible terrible game it was. How can two teams play so bad? No idea going forward. Pelé, immortal words: Football is the beautiful game … You must be joking” – Ossie Ardiles tweets his verdict on events in Cologne.

EURO 2024 DAILY LETTERS

Re: yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs, full email edition. Pickle juice for England players, eh? Perhaps time to call up Dean Gerken” – Andy Korman.

Maybe just Wispa it but I wonder if that Cadbury’s Jude Bellingham shirt (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs, full email edition) will give England a Boost? Jordan Pickford will need to make sure he gets his Fingers to everything Denmark throw at us. It won’t be a Picnic in the park. Hopefully everything comes up smelling of Roses and they get to ride a Double Decker to Trafalgar Square as Heroes. OK, I need a Time Out after all that” – Antony Train [you and us both – Euro 2024 Daily letters Ed].

Could I suggest their next project might be constructing a series of giant chocolate teapots? There are so many potential recipients in football who richly deserve one – perhaps they can start with the Premier League, for services to Financial Fair Play and VAR?” – Steve Malone.

The Scotland-Switzerland match was illuminated by one moment of brilliance. No, not Shaqiri’s goal – it was the ball smacking a Swiss fan right in the kisser. Kudos to the nearby Scot who didn’t even blink” – Mark McFadden.

Send letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. Today’s letter o’ the day winner is … Andy Korman, who wins a copy of Euro 84: The Greatest Tournament You Never Saw, by Pitch Publishing. Visit their bookshop here. Terms and conditions for our competitions can be viewed here.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

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A MESSAGE FROM THE MAN

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