Scotland “did the country proud” despite crashing out of Euro 2020 with defeat to Croatia on Tuesday night, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said she is “absolutely gutted” the men’s team failed to make it out of the tournament’s group stage.
They were beaten 3-1 by Croatia, leaving them bottom of group D following a draw with England and defeat to the Czech Republic.
Sturgeon said “Like everybody else, I’m absolutely gutted.
“It was a roller-coaster 90 minutes and heart-breaking, but I’m full of real pride in the team – they took us to our first men’s tournament in 23 years.
“The cheer, excitement and sense of passion and pride that they’ve given us over the past couple of weeks has been something really, really special.
“They played their hearts out so they did the country proud, and they should be really proud of themselves.
“It wasn’t to be on this occasion, but they’ve given us a lot to feel optimistic about as they now look forward to the World Cup qualifiers.”
Asked who she will support for the rest of the tournament, she added: “I find that once Scotland’s not there, I personally probably will not have quite the same interest in the football.
“I congratulate England on getting through, I congratulate Wales on getting through – I think Wales are a really exciting team and managed to go deep into tournaments in a way that Scotland looks on enviously at.
“But, I’ll see who plays best and who captures my attention, but as I say, once Scotland are out, it loses something of the interest for me on a personal level.”
Scottish secretary Alister Jack reflected on the team’s elimination from Euro 2020 as he opened Scotland Questions in the Commons, telling MPs: “The dream is over and my commiserations go to Steve Clarke and the Scottish team now they’re out of the Euros.
“Us Scots will now turn our attention to Wimbledon where we have won the men’s singles twice in the last eight years.
“I also congratulate Wales and England on proceeding to the knockout stages of the tournament and I wish them well in that.”
Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray added: “Can I join the Secretary of State in congratulating Stevie Clarke and the whole Scotland team for cheering up a nation over the last 10 days or so.
“As we said in the 1970s, we had a dream, that dream died unfortunately last night and we’ll have to wait until Qatar next year for the World Cup.”
Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart said: “My experience is that while the spirit is often tested, it’s never broken and I’m sure it’ll sustain.”