A “gutted” Scott McKenna has said the standard and knowledge of Croatia proved the difference as Scotland’s Euro 2020 dreams led to Glasgow.
But the Scotland defender feels Steve Clarke’s side can use their exposure to the large stage as a platform to play there more regularly.
Callum McGregor fired Scotland level at Hampden and John McGinn couldn’t convert an opportunity at 1-1, before Croatia veterans Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic produced masterful finishes to earn a 3-1 Hampden win for the planet Cup runners-up.
Both sides needed a win to progress and therefore the visitors’ class in possession told despite Scotland creating a variety of changes before finishing bottom of Group D.
McKenna, who replaced the injured Grant Hanley within the half, said: “I’m mostly just gutted, to be honest. After approaching after about half an hour, then getting ourselves back within the game just before half-time, we went out hoping for an enormous last half – but it just didn’t compute that way.
“We had some chances. But ultimately their quality got the higher folks, within the end.
“I think we probably lacked a touch of experience. Croatia is a team who are on this stage repeatedly before.
“They probably showed that better than us, knowing the way to manage the sport, getting the goals at the proper time. That got the higher folks.
“But it’s a learning experience for everybody and hopefully, going forward, we put off these things together and it puts us in a better place.”
Scotland is now determined to make sure their first major tournament in 23 years isn’t a one-off.
McKenna believes their Euros experience, including the emergence of young players Billy Gilmour, David Turnbull, and Nathan Patterson, offers hope.
Turnbull didn’t get on the pitch but Gilmour earned UEFA’s star man award within the goalless draw with England before being struck down by Covid-19, while Patterson showed enough in his late cameo against Croatia to suggest he’s ready for international football.
McKenna said: “Going out of the tournament is usually getting to be disappointing.
“But hopefully this is often just the beginning of Scotland being back at major tournaments. Hopefully, we qualify for the planet Cup going forward.
“We have seen how good the amount was against England the opposite night.
“Nathan has been tremendous a day in training and that we saw the standard of David Turnbull against Holland also. He has probably not played the maximum amount since then as he would have liked, but it’s exciting going forward.
“We have also need to remember we’ve no players in their 30s that are going out.
“Andy (Robertson) remains young, as is John McGinn. Our big players are still at an excellent age and that they will still be with us for several tournaments going forward.
“As very much like the young ones are exciting also, it’s good we’ve still got the more senior ones about also.
“It was one among the items the manager said after the sport, that we’ll be disappointed, but we’ve needed to confirm this is often just the beginning of Scotland qualifying for major tournaments – it’s not the top.
“I think once we reminisce about it, it’ll be a positive experience and that we will want to try to do it everywhere again. Hopefully, we will do this.”