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Billy Gilmour missing Croatia clash a huge blow for Scotland's Euro 2020 dream

Robbie Copeland
Gilmour will miss Scotland's clash with Croatia
Gilmour will miss Scotland's clash with Croatia / Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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After the news broke that Billy Gilmour had contracted Covid-19, and would miss Scotland's do-or-die clash with Croatia on Tuesday, the mood of the nation could be aptly summarised in one word.

F**k.

In the space of a month, the Chelsea star had gone from uncapped and unlikely to be named in the Euro 2020 squad to running the show against England at Wembley, and a surefire starter for one of the biggest games the Scotland men's national team have ever faced.

After his rapid rise to prominence, it seemed written in the stars that Gilmour would run out at Hampden and help fire his country into the knockout phase of a major tournament for the first time ever. But just as Steve Clarke's team drew their breath and prepared to make history, their preparations were hurled into turmoil.

That bloody pandemic.

In most cases, the absence of a 20-year-old with just 115 minutes of international football under his belt wouldn't be too much of a setback, especially with more seasoned performers like Stuart Armstrong waiting in the wings and ready to step in.

But it's impossible to overstate that performance at Wembley, in which Gilmour controlled the game exuded an authority that shut one of the Premier League's form players out of the match altogether. Even on a day where John McGinn and Callum McGregor were at their best, Gilmour shone above them.

He looked legitimately world class. And now, with a huge game on the horizon in which Scotland will come up against some world class midfielders, they could really use him.

Having watched how emphatically Gilmour slammed the door in Mason Mount's face, Luke Modric will be breathing a sigh of relief that he is unavailable for the all-or-nothing clash at Hampden. So too will his Chelsea teammate Mateo Kovacic, who will soon be fearing for his spot at Stamford Bridge if Gilmour returns from his isolation period and picks up where he left off.

But Scotland, needing a win to give themselves a fighting chance of qualifying for the last 16, will have to find some way to do it without him. McGregor, who helped Gilmour run the show at Wembley, will surely start, as will McGinn whose fearless pressing will play a key role in cutting off the supply from Modric.

Obviously, it's not the end for Gilmour. He is set for a far-reaching international career, and will soon be rivalling the likes of Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney as one of his country's most important players. He might already be there, depending on who you ask about his performance at Wembley.

For now, though, Scotland will just have to find some way of navigating the most important game in their recent history without him.

They have options to replace him: Stuart Armstrong, John Fleck, David Turnbull or Scott McTominay are all available to join McGregor and McGinn in the engine room.

Yet just 115 minutes into his international career, you already get the nagging sense that without Gilmour, Scotland won't quite be at their best.

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