|Dates: 11 June-11 July. Venues: Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Seville, St-Petersburg. Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for more details|
It was new and dazzling, and yet, in the end, it was all painfully familiar.
The hope that built to a deafening crescendo by kick-off. The sensory overload that accompanied the Scotland players on to the pitch. The sheer nerve-jangling anticipation of what was about to unfold.
Then, reality. The missed opportunities. The desperate concessions. The grim endgame that left Scotland goalless and pointless from a group match of such towering importance to their hopes of reaching the knockouts.
Harsh lessons are taught at football’s top table, where Scotland’s men had not dined for 23 years.
Glasgow abuzz for seminal day
The day began with a feverish excitement. Cans of lager were consumed at breakfast; establishments rammed by noon. Schoolchildren were given a break to watch the game. Glasgow hummed and buzzed in a way it has not done for years.
At Hampden itself, history hung the air, the seminal nature of the afternoon amplified by the long, long wait for fans to return to the national stadium. The feeling was different and special. Even the plug sockets in the media zone had been converted to fit European adapters.
Children bounced on the shoulders of their parents, a boundless enthusiasm that could only come from those too young to be burdened by the failures of the past. More senior footsoldiers of the Tartan Army embraced in the stands, joyous to be among the modest crowd – modest, that is, in number, not volume.
On the BBC TV platform, presenter Eilidh Barbour and her colleagues had to roar into their microphones to be heard above the din. Steve Clarke could not hear the questions being put to him trackside.
The official figure showed around 9,000 fans were scattered across the Hampden bowl. In reality, as Flower of Scotland pealed out, it could have been five million.
The angst, though, came thick and fast. First, rumours fizzed around social media suggesting Kieran Tierney was not fit to play. A “niggle”, Clarke would later confirm, ruled him out. Tierney is not only a terrific player, crucial to how Scotland operate, but a young man so utterly uncowed by these big occasions.
More was to follow. Whenever Scotland crossed the halfway line, the place went berserk, then collapsed in a wave of disappointment as chance after chance was squandered. An acapella rendition of the national anthem could not rouse Scotland into the lead.
When Patrik Schick planted his header beyond David Marshall, the place fell silent for the first time. When Schick’s utterly majestic second soared over the goalkeeper, frustration turned to exasperation and, eventually, resignation.
‘Scots left feeling Schick’
BBC Sport Scotland’s Scott Mullen at Hampden
As workplaces, classrooms and household chores ground to a halt, the doors of Hampden opened to Scotland fans for the first time since they faced Kazakhstan in November 2019.
It began with a trickle, opening up to a flow of dark blue, kilts and saltires flooding Mount Florida. Scotland was back, and so was the Tartan Army.
Inside the ground, the 9,000 who got tickets did themselves proud. The noise of hearing Yes Sir… I Can Boogie belted out by a Scotland crowd for the first time was a surreal experience, given its incarnation as a national anthem now seems a lifetime ago.
The swell of pride at the anthem proper will live long. Sadly, so too will the silence that befell the old lady in Glasgow’s south side just moments before the break as Schick had the Scots feeling, well, sick.
As Scotland’s players were applauded off, Andy Robertson sloped off to the main stand, hoisting his child into his arms. Their dad has helped take Scotland this far. A heroic effort from him and his team is now needed to continue that journey.