Csoboth celebrates scoring the winning goal. Alamy Stock Photo
tartan army go home

Scotland dumped out of Euros by Hungary's 99th-minute winner

Hungary have hopes of progression on a night marred by a potentially serious injury to striker Barnabas Varga.

Scotland 0 

Hungary 1

SCOTLAND HAVE CRASHED out of the European Championship, beaten in the ninth minute of stoppage time to Kevin Csoboth’s winning goal. Hungary finish the group in third place and must hope their three points and minus-three goal difference is enough to squeeze through as one of the four best third-ranked sides when everything is settled on Wednesday. 

The Hungarians’ post-game joy did not betray the fact their continued status at this tournament remains provisional, but what Scotland would do for this uncertainty. They are formally, definitively out. 

For the 12th time they have come to a major tournament and for the 12th time they have exited it at the first stage. It’s a baffling fact but it’s entirely coherent based off what we have seen in this tournament. They rallied from their opening night humiliation to draw with Switzerland but tonight they were not good enough to find the goal they needed. They were painfully limited out wide and up front and failed to create a chance of note until the final quarter of the game, ending the game without a shot on target. 

Scotland will bewail the non-award of a penalty for what looked like a foul on Stuart Armstrong,  but Hungary’s celebrations were shot through with emotion for their striker Barnabas Varga, who was stretchered from the field with a potentially serious injury following a collision with Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn. 

The Hungary players held up Varga’s jersey in front of their fans at the end, and the Hungarian FA confirmed after the game that Varga has been taken to hospital and is conscious and in a stable condition. 

The Scottish fans have been the break-out sensation of the tournament and the pre-game Flower of Scotland popped ears and shook souls before kick-off, at which point the Scottish fans sank into a kind of quiet trance. This was in contrast to the Hungary fans, who maintained their rhythmic drumbeat-and-chant without any concession to what was happening on the pitch. 

The Scottish fans, though, had yoked themselves to the occasion and were condemned to live every emotional peak and trough of the night’s horrifying promise. 

Their team then didn’t give them anything to soar and sink through. Scotland initially took ownership of the ball as Hungary dropped off in a stubborn 5-4-1. While Scotland’s quartet of midfielders knocked the ball among themselves, it was utterly without purpose. Their best route to goal appeared to pop the ball to the feet of John McGinn, who would then squat and arch his back like a foraging back-row forward before drawing a foul. Scotland’s set-piece delivery was maddeningly bad, with Andy Robertson removed from duties after he hit their most advanced free-kick against the very first man. These miserable efforts made the earnest touchline gesticulating of set-piece coach Austin McPhee mildly comic. 

After 22 minutes Scotland had 77% possession but the sum total of zero shots and a single touch in the Hungarian box. While they managed another couple of touches after that, by half-time Scotland were only the second team in these Euros to fail to record any kind of shot in the first-half of a game after, er, Scotland, in their opening-day horror against Germany. 

Hungary slowly emerged from their early passivity to become the only team likely to deliver a first-half goal. Bendeguez Bolla saw an early long-range shot beaten away unconvincingly by Angus Gunn, which put distance specialist Szoboszlai on notice. But after a couple of his pops from range were deflected harmlessly away, his improvisation on a free-kick left Scottish fans on shredded nerves. Rather than shoot from the edge of the ‘D’, he dinked a ball over an overly-staffed Scottish wall and to two unmarked team-mates at the back post. Willi Orban made the contact, heading the ball onto the top of the crossbar from inside the six-yard box. 

The second-half returned with at the same tepid pace, though Scotland did finally register a shot on the 53rd minute. Sure, it was a no-hoper from Che Adams from outside the box, but it was a step in the right direction. The Scots upped the ante, though the increasing fervour of their support base begat no great inspiration among the Scottish players. 

The stadium atmosphere then churned queasily when Barnabas Varga appeared to collide with Angus Gunn as he came out to punch away a cross into the box. Varga immediately lay prone on the ground as the Hungarian players yelled for assistance. Assistant staff came onto the field to erect screens around Varga as he was treated in the goalmouth in from of the Hungarian supporters, as the players continued to scream for more medical personnel, to the point that Szoboszlai sprinted to grab a couple of stretchers and haul them onto the pitch more quickly. After a long stoppage, Varga was stretchered from the field with the screens shielding him from view, many of his team-mates looking visibly shaken. 

hungary-players-and-staff-cover-barnabas-varga-after-an-injury-during-a-group-a-match-between-scotland-and-hungary-at-the-euro-2024-soccer-tournament-in-stuttgart-germany-sunday-june-23-2024-ap Barnabas Varga is shielded from view as he is treated by medics. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The VAR did check for a potential penalty arising from the collision between Gunn and Varga, but it was not awarded. 

Steve Clarke, meanwhile, replaced McGinn and Adams with Stuart Armstrong and Lawrence Shankland, and within moments Armstrong was felled in the box by Orban.

It looked a pretty obvious penalty and a second yellow for Orban, but the referee waved it away and the VAR wasn’t moved to intervene. 

Incensed but denied, Clarke began to gamble, swapping out his wing-backs and shifting to a back-four, which meant the removal of a hobbling Robertson. Scotland, when they foresaw the situation in which they could be chasing a late goal, can’t have imagined they would be doing so with McGinn and Robertson sitting on the bench. 

Ten minutes of added time were announced to let slip all havoc. Kenny McClean, introduced to play at left-back, found himself utterly dazzled upon entry, and Hungary tore into the the space behind him. 

First Szoboszlai forced a good front-post save from Gunn and then substitute Kevin Csobeth came agonisingly close to scoring, sprinting into space behind McClean before seeing his shot arc across the goal and hit the far post. 

Scotland meanwhile reacted to the call for last orders by going on the kind of tear from which they might have benefitted from kicking off earlier. McTominay spooned over from close range from Christie’s cross and Shankland saw an instinctive shot inside the box beaten away by Gulasci. 

But 10 minutes left too much room for Scottish heartbreak. And so it was told in the 99th minute. Hungary broke from a Scotland corner and sprinted into oceans of room where Andy Robertson once stood. Sallai gambolled to the touchline and pulled the ball across for Csobeth to tap home. 

Scotland finish bottom of the group and go home, as Hungary sit and wait. 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel