Scotland fall at final hurdle

Scotland's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008 have tonight ended after they were defeated by World Champions Italy at Hampden Park 2-1. Scotland went into the game needing a win to book their place in next summer's tournament but after a heroic performance by the Scots they came up just short of their aim.

Scotland got off to the worst possible start when Italy reacted quickly after been awarded a throw in and striker Luca Toni latched onto the end of Antonio Di Natale's cross. The hom support were stunned but they kept singing and the Scotland players didn't drop their heads. Scotland may of been awarded a penalty soon after when Lee McCulloch struck a ball off the arm of Zambrotta, but the appeals were turned away by referee Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez.

Italy nearly doubled their lead soon after when Di Natale was incorrectly flagged offside when putting the ball in the back of Craig Gordon's net. David Weir was inches away from sending the sides in 1-1 at half-time when his header was cleared off the line by Pirlo. Scotland were awarded a free-kick on the edge of Italy's box mid-way through the second half.

James McFadden stepped up and hit a poor free that fell to McCulloch on the edge of the six yard box, who hit a shot straight at Buffon, but he could only parry and it fell to the feet of captain Barry Ferguson who duly finished. Replays showed that Ferguson was actually in an offside position when McCulloch took his shot.

Scotland may of taking a vital lead soon after when substitute, Kenny Miller played a lovely ball to the on rushing McFadden who shot into the side netting. Scotland pressed and pressed but to no avail and Italy booked their place in Euro 2008 when Panucci headed home a free-kick by Pirlo.

Obviously it's very unlucky for Scotland. Even though they didn't qualify, they can still be very proud of their efforts. I was very unhappy with some of the antics by the Italian players. They were going down very easily at every opportunity and unfortunately the ref fell for it most of the time.