Scotland qualified for Euro 2024 on Sunday
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Scotland gave France an early fright before suffering a chastening 4-1 loss to their classy hosts in Lille.
The Scots went into the friendly knowing they had qualified for the 2024 European Championships at the weekend after Spain beat Norway to ensure Steve Clarke’s side a top-two finish in Group A.
Clarke took the opportunity to utilise his squad, giving a debut to Liam Kelly among eight changes from last week’s game in Seville and they stunned the home side when midfielder Billy Gilmour guided in the opener after 11 minutes – his first ever senior goal.
However, France defender Benjamin Pavard scored twice with headers by way of a rapid response and skipper Kylian Mbappe added a third from the spot before the break.
Substitute Kingsley Coman hammered in a fourth in the 70th minute to seal a commanding win for the superior home side.
After winning their first five Euro qualifiers, Scotland have lost three games in a row and Clarke will want to get that winning feeling back in the final two qualifiers against Georgia and Norway next month.
In addition to Kelly’s introduction to international football in The Decathlon Arena Stade Pierre Mauroy, Clarke also brought in defenders Nathan Patterson, Greg Taylor and Liam Cooper, midfielders Kenny McLean, Gilmour and Lewis Ferguson and striker Che Adams.
It was always going to be a tough test against Les Blues, who qualified comfortably for Euro 2024 by winning their first six qualifiers.
Mbappe was part of a strong France side
Boss Didier Deschamps also freshened his side up from the 2-1 win over the Netherlands last Friday.
Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann kept their places while Ousmane Dembele and all-time leading scorer Olivier Giroud came back into the side.
The kick-off was delayed for around 10 minutes due to the long queues at the stadium amid extra security measures put in place after two Swedish nationals were shot dead in Brussels the previous evening.
There was a minute’s silence before the game to commemorate that incident and it was a low-key start to the game on a pitch still showing markings from its use in the Rugby World Cup, before the Scots took an unexpected lead.
France defender Eduardo Camavinga cut out a pass from Gilmour inside the box but with a poor touch gave it straight back to the unmarked Brighton midfielder, who curled the ball low past goalkeeper Mike Maignan.
However, there was little time for the Tartan Army to enjoy the landmark goal as a Griezmann corner from the left five minutes later was all too easily glanced past Kelly by Inter Milan centre-back Pavard.
A refocused France side took control of the game and Mbappe skipped past Jack Hendry before crossing for Pavard again to head past Kelly from close range.
The visitors were struggling to get up the pitch and in the 40th minute France were awarded a penalty after referee Tobias Stieler went pitchside at the behest of VAR and judged Cooper had held Giroud inside the penalty area, with Mbappe stepping up to send the penalty past the diving Kelly, who got close but not close enough.
The Motherwell keeper did not look great moments later when he fumbled a shot from Dembele but the lurking Mbappe could not capitalise.
Hearts keeper Zander Clark replaced Kelly at the start of the second half to make his debut and Jacob Brown and John Souttar would take over from Adams and Cooper.
Giroud and Dembele made way for Marcus Thuram and Coman and in the 70th minute the latter thrashed a shot high past Clark after Griezmann had volleyed against the bar.
A low drive from Brown in a rare Scotland attack was pushed past the post by Maignan and the corner came to nothing before Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong came on for Gilmour and McLean.
Thuram rattled Clark’s crossbar with a drive and at the other Maignan made saves from Armstrong’s volley and Brown’s header but the game was already well gone for Scotland.
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