How will Scotland remember this team? As a group who broke the mould or only momentarily reshaped it? For the best of times in Belgrade, for a win over Spain at Hampden when the home stadium nearly took off, for successive Euro qualifications after decades without them and a restoration of pride long lost before?

Or just another nearly. As the potential of finally making it out of a major tournament group stage slipped away again, the strongest sense is that no opportunity passed up previously has been as good as this. It has long been said that Scotland are synonymous with glorious failure, and here was another example. But what is glorious about this?

Ultimately, a 1-0 defeat to Hungary was another missed moment. A chance to change the country’s footballing story passed up. Will this group ever have a situation quite so favourable to become the one who ended the wait? While future campaigns can still shape the narrative this missed opportunity will be the dominant one for now. And it is only more of the same.

In Stuttgart Scotland were never, truly, close despite the scoreline. There was hard work and bustle but such a lack of quality on show. Not until injury time was momentum achieved in front of goal. Hungary too demonstrated why Switzerland and Germany share top spot while still convincing a little more in the final third, demonstrated by their ability to add the finishing touch through Kevin Csoboth.

There is nothing worse in football than missing out on a huge result and knowing you’ve not shown your best face in doing so. This was that to the letter. Up until the final seconds when a draw was on the cards, it was still possible that holidays would be prolonged and stories rewritten if, by some minor miracle, two points proved enough for Clarke’s side to make it through. But what felt likely in the final stages was eventually true - if you want to write history, do it yourselves.

To have been in Germany this past fortnight is, in many senses, to have not been away from home at all. Roaming the streets of Munich, Cologne and Stuttgart could’ve been Glasgow or Edinburgh for the dark blue shirts and consistently late trains. Despite well-publicised levels of lager, everything has been more than cordial. This is the experience of a major tournament that fans are promised when various countries submit their bids. Hemereging hope all the way from one city to the next, the Tartan Army have endeared all they’ve met.

Clarke resisted the temptation to shift away from his back three to a four pre-match. Although without Kieran Tierney, one of the two left-backs Scotland’s set-up is designed to accommodate, change was speculated Clarke is rarely dramatic. Anthony Ralston continued despite his struggles against Switzerland as did a midfield that felt far better configured than matchday one. Hungary were pointless pre-match despite reaching Germany unbeaten in 14 games. Such is the nature of tournament football they’d never recovered from their first half at Euro 2024 in the subsequent four. There was a natural determination to end on a high note if this was to be their finale.

Early on Scotland had a lot of the ball, almost all of it actually. But despite a 75% share of possession on the hour mark Clarke’s side hadn’t mustered a shot. They controlled the game because they were allowed to. The biggest success going forward to that point was the consistent fouls won by John McGinn. Billy Gilmour reversed a few passes into the front line and Andy Robertson tried his best to inject some pace. This is often the game state in which Scotland struggle, though. Too many individuals moving towards the ball and keeping play in front of a defence who were happy shuffling side to side, rarely forced onto heels. The desire to not make a mistake, understandably, seemed to supersede the potential of becoming a protagonist. It felt like a 45 minutes where actually, nothing happened. Willie Orban clipped the crossbar from a free-kick when Scotland were focused only on stopping a Dominik Sbozoszlai shot. For the side in blue, no shots on target or attempted were registered by half-time. On a few occasions when someone opted for another safe pass retaining the ball rather than driving forwards, even the ever-faithful Scotland support let out a groan.

There wasn’t the same urgency that had defined Scotland’s draw with Switzerland. Not enough time without the ball to press and force turnovers, not enough pressure from the opposition to play into space when it was their turn in possession. It’s no secret that even when fully fit, Scotland are far from at their most comfortable trying to shift a defence and create openings. You only have to glance at where there squad boasts depth as a reminder. Without a ball carrier outside of Robertson Scotland’s ability to fashion chances when not playing into space can prove dispiriting. Only twice have a team failed to register a shot in the first half of Euro 2024 - both have been Scotland.

The thing is, it was all here for Steve Clarke and his side. When the 60-year-old assumed office in 2019 just being at a finals was significant, such is the job he’s done the first progression from a group stage ever was now almost expected. History was there to be grabbed and gotten tonight. The chance to write a legacy clear. Clarke’s message at half-time must have included the sentiment that if you’re going to go out, at least do it fighting.

There were a few more signs of encouragement after the break. The Tartan Army let out a roar when Adams initiated a press and one louder as a long, ambitious McGinn run provoked a corner. That sentence in itself tells of the frugality of final third moments to build optimism. Scotland could never get up and around the box and only built belief when an array of half-chances were spurned late on.

No nation is unimpacted by injuries this summer but when you’re one as small as ours, absences are felt more keenly. The missing Aaron Hickey or Nathan Patterson took any attacking vigour away from the right flank while Lyndon Dykes would’ve started. Lewis Ferguson was one of the best midfielders in Italy pre-injury. The absence of Tierney’s forward runs was so notable tonight.

Clarke turned to his bench but only made properly aggressive changes on 83 minutes. By then you got the sense that even those on the park knew a roll of the dice was probably too late. After 90 minutes had been played Scotland’s xG came in at a modest 0.04 and Hungary’s 11 shots had only faced one in reply. As injury time catalysed a chaotic period the tie was there to be won by whoever could put together some sort of unison. Marco Rossi’s side clipped the post on the break before finally finding the net. Scotland will leave Euro 2024 as the team to attempt the fewest shots both overall (17) and on target (3).

Have the Scottish people seen themselves in this team? Probably. Honest, hard-working and passionate, more skilled than it gives itself credit for and proud. The next step was, and is, where could this Scotland side have gone with a little more belief in its ability? A little more evidence of their quality and bravery on the ball?

Instead, in the end, rather than becoming a break from the norm here was the script that Scotland have never been able to rewrite and could not now. The wait for a team to rise and claim their moment on the big stage will not end, yet.