Defender Scott McKenna insists Euro 2020 must be the catalyst for Scotland to regularly qualify for major tournaments.
Former Aberdeen centre-back McKenna was ‘gutted’ that the Scots’ Euro 2020 campaign ended with a 3-1 loss to Croatia.
The Scots needed to beat the 2018 World Cup finalists to progress from the groups of a tournament for the first time.
It wasn’t to be but McKenna, who came on as a first half substitute, insists hope remains high Scotland will be regulars at major finals.
And his first target is to grace the World Cup finals in Qatar in 2022.
McKenna said: “I am gutted and going out of a major tournament is disappointing.
“Hopefully this is just the start of Scotland being back at major tournaments and we can now push on the for World Cup.
“It was one of the things the manager said after the game, that we will be disappointed tonight, but we have got to make sure this is just the start of Scotland qualifying for major tournaments – it’s not the end.
“I think when we look back at it, it will be a positive experience and we will want to do it all over again.
“Hopefully we can do that.”
Scotland had suffered a 23 year major finals drought before securing qualification to Euro 2020 courtesy of a dramatic play-off final penalty shoot-out defeat of Serbia last November.
McKenna is determined there will only be a year wait until they play in the next major tournament – the World Cup with qualifiers continuing in September.
Now at Nottingham Forest McKenna, a product of the Pittodrie youth system, was introduced for the injured Grant Hanley.
Scotland went into the break all square at 1-1 but lost to goals from Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic after the break.
McKenna accepts Croatia were more game wise on the big stage.
He said: “I think tonight we probably lacked a bit of experience.
“Croatia are a team who have been on this stage many times before.
‘They probably showed that better than us tonight, knowing how to manage the game, getting the goals at the right time.
“We went out looking for a big second half but it didn’t work out that way.
“We had a couple of chances but ultimately their quality got the better of us.”
Asked if there was still a technical gap between Scotland and a side of the calibre of Croatia, McKenna said: “Yeah maybe.
“We showed against England we can go toe to toe with the top teams but we have to do that in every game.
“It was a learning experience and we just have to put this all together so we are in a better place.
“However we had chances in games that we didn’t ‘take, so that’s frustrating.
“It’s a learning experience for everyone.”
Disappointment for Scotland that they could not deliver an historic night.
However McKenna insists the future remains bright for a Scotland side that were minus Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour who tested positive for Covid 19.
Manager Clarke has a young squad to work with and McKenna insists the Scots will only get better.
He said: “It is exciting going forward but you also have to remember that we have no players in their thirties.
“As much as young ones are exciting we still have the more experienced players.”
Our UEFA EURO 2020 journey comes to an end.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 22, 2021
Scotland finished bottom of Group D on one point, with just one goal scored through McGregor’s superb first half strike.
The Scots had opportunities in all three games against Czech Republic, England and Croatia.
McKenna said: “We definitely see it as an opportunity missed, especially with the chances we missed in the two games.
“It was probably sloppy goals we lost that cost us in the end.
“It’s bitterly disappointing and we probably could have done a bit better.”
Although disappointed to crash out of Euro 2020 McKenna was delighted to at least get a taste of major tournament action.
He has had that first taste – now he is hungry for more.
McKenna said: “I was delighted to get on the pitch.
“Being part of the squad and how good the group is, it has been an amazing experience for me already.
“The result and my performance probably didn’t go the way I would have liked it to, but hopefully I can personally learn from that and use it going forward.
“It’s a great group of lads, a great manager and coaching staff.
“The full thing has been enjoyable for me and hopefully it’s something I can experience again.”