Euro 2020: Scotland hit by Billy Gilmour’s positive Covid-19 diagnosis
Scotland's bid to reach the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time was rocked by yesterday's announcement that Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour had tested positive for Covid-19.
Rarely will the loss of a player with just one senior start for his country be so lamented.
The 20-year-old walked away from Wembley last Friday with the Man of the Match award, after getting the better of fellow English Premier League players as Scotland kept their Euro 2020 campaign alive with a 0-0 draw against England.
Steve Clarke's side need to beat Croatia at Glasgow's Hampden Park tomorrow morning (Singapore time) to stand a chance of reaching the last 16.
"We always do it the hard way, or the Scottish way," said midfielder John McGinn after a 2-0 defeat by the Czech Republic left them with a mountain to climb.
The one crumb of comfort for Clarke is that he has not lost any more players to self-isolation despite their contact with Gilmour.
All 25 remaining members of his squad trained yesterday after news of the midfielder's positive case broke. England's Football Association also confirmed that their 26-man squad and backroom staff all tested negative on Sunday.
However, Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have to self-isolate after being filmed with Gilmour after the game.
Gilmour's composure on the ball at Wembley, despite the noise and tension around the match between the auld enemies led to a deluge of plaudits.
"Billy Gilmour is my idol," tweeted three-time tennis Grand Slam winner Andy Murray, while former Scotland captain Graeme Souness claimed he was the playmaker his country could build around for 10 years.
Scotland will have to find a way to cope without Gilmour, who must self-isolate for 10 days, but Clarke has options in midfield, which is why he had resisted the clamour to start Gilmour until the trip to London.
Southampton's Stuart Armstrong, who replaced Gilmour for the final 14 minutes at Wembley, is expected to come into the side and should offer more of a goal threat to a team who have failed to find the net in their opening two matches.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic believes his side won't benefit from Gilmour's absence.
"Gilmour played really well against England but, up to that game, he was never a first-choice option and he may not have even started against us," Dalic said yesterday.
"I don't see his absence as our advantage because whoever replaces him will be a more experienced player."
Without Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, both of whom have retired from international football, Croatia have appeared one-dimensional.
A moment of magic from Ivan Perisic salvaged a 1-1 draw against the Czechs to keep their hopes of qualification alive.
"Right now, we're not the Croatia we all want," said captain Luka Modric. "We all have to improve, from the first player to the last."
Like Scotland, a win should be enough to help Croatia seal a last-16 spot either as one of the best third-placed sides or as one of the top two. - AFP, REUTERS