Sometimes you can take comfort in the manner of defeat, holding onto near misses or valiant attempts at victory.

Aside from the non-award of a penalty that Steve Clarke fumed at post-match following Hungary’s 1-0 win over Scotland to end his side’s Euro 2024 campaign, there were no straws to grasp. One isolated minute cannot overshadow 90 minutes lacking any encouragement going forward.

The underlying numbers that started to appear in the minutes after Kevin Csoboth’s 99th-minute winner only added salt to wounds. Clarke’s side had attempted just one shot by 90 minutes, a speculative Che Adams effort from 20 yards. In three of the six halves of football they played at this tournament, they attempted no shots at all. Their xG, expected goal, across the group stage was 0.97. Based on the value of chances created, Clarke’s men didn’t even fashion sufficient moments to score once (Scott McTominay and Scott McKenna both saw deflections responsible for the two goals that did the net).

READ MOREThe damning fact that shows Scotland waited to grab history before glorious failure

Despite the fact that every other group still has to play their final game, Scotland's xG is guaranteed to be the tournament’s lowest (24/24). So too their shots on target total of three (24/24) and goals conceded of seven (24/24). At least the xG conceded of 4.3 and shots taken of 18 comes in at 23rd.

The question is why? We’ve seen this Scotland team perform far better and trouble defences before. Only a few days ago against Switzerland, the plan on and off the ball appeared more aggressive and cohesive. But facing Hungary when the ball was at their feet to set the tempo it remained low and ponderous. Hungary gave Scotland control of possession gambling the positives would outweigh the negatives and Marco Rossi’s plan was proven to be correct.

Take a look at the game’s pass network, charting the average position of Scotland’s players on the ball. Even more alarming are the common connections identified. It backs up what the eye sees, for all of the ball that Scotland enjoyed they rarely did anything with it.

(Image: Wyscout)

After half an hour of last night’s game Clarke’s side had seen 75 percent of the ball while largely passing in front of the opposition defence. It was only when the rubber hit the road and 10 minutes of injury time were added that any semblance of pressure was built around the Hungary box.

It is clear and obvious that Scotland do not have a well-balanced squad with quality loaded to the midfield and the left. Still, should Lawrence Shankland have spent so long on the bench after the season he’s just enjoyed to offer some form of cutting-edge up top?

The argument in response might be that Scotland’s issue was getting the ball into the final third before discussing their productivity in the box. The right-hand side has been problematic all tournament given injuries to Nathan Patterson and Aaron Hickey with Tony Ralston not only struggling defensively but limiting ball progression. This was most obvious against Switzerland but last night offered a further example of why missing an attacking outlet on the right also weakened the strengths posed down the left. Rossi knew the more his side funnelled play away from Robertson the more it would be forced backwards.

Even when lines were broken there always seemed to be an abundance of players behind the ball and no one running beyond to stretch the game. Suggesting Scotland lacked a moment of real attacking threat until Stuart Armstrong was sent through on goal and brought down for the aforementioned penalty shout is not hyperbolic.

Often the back three and double pivot of Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour were joined by Ralskon and Robertson - exchanging passes in front of their opponents.

(Image: Wyscout)

Clarke, as witnessed against Switzerland, tried to adapt to that fact. Che Adams would often pull wide onto the right flank to offer a passing target alongside John McGinn. The theory being that their presence would stretch Hungary to one flank and open space for the pace of Robertson on the left. The captain’s impact was lessened without the complimentary runs of the injured Kieran Tierney, though.

(Image: Wyscout)

Although, presumably, the plan here was to draw out Hungary’s wing-backs and create gaps down the side of the defence, the ball was never moved forward quickly enough to exploit those openings.

“We did have enough chances to score a goal that’s clear,” Clarke reasoned post-match during his press conference. “Is that why we went out the tournament? Well we scored two goals this time and only one the last time. It’s something for me to go away, think about, speak to my coaches and try work on something as to how we can score more goals at certain times in games.”

It's undeniable that Scotland now have two examples of exits from major tournaments defined by their inability to create chances on the ball. The topline and underlying numbers agree.