Scot Gemmill says his Scotland Under-17 squad must learn from their European Championship experience if they are to play at the highest level for club and country.
Scotland were knocked out of the tournament at the group stage after losing all three matches.
France inflicted a 5-0 defeat last Thursday and a 1-0 loss to Greece on Sunday was followed by a 2-0 defeat to Russia yesterday.
This was Scotland’s third appearance at the finals but it contrasted sharply with the success of last year’s squad, who reached the semi-finals.
Gemmill has challenged his players to learn from their disappointing performance and show they have what it takes to compete at the top.
He said: “I’ve spoken about ‘best v best’ in the past and this is it; they have been exposed to football at the highest level over the past week.
“The team did fantastically well to qualify for the finals again this year and show they are among the best 16 teams in Europe at under-17 level.
“We must give them full credit for that but there is no doubt the finals have provided them with a clearer view of where they stand against the best young players in Europe.
“It’s a harsh lesson but learning and development is essential at this age.
“The ball is in their court now and how they respond will shape their careers.”
Scotland secured their qualification for the tournament after late drama in their elite round.
An injury time winner for Bosnia-Herzegovina against Hungary in the other group match was enough to send Scotland to the finals as the group runners-up.
Yesterday, France netted in the fourth minute of injury time to beat Greece and that result, coupled with Russia’s 2-0 win over Scotland, meant Russia advanced to the last eight.
Gemmill cited both as examples of how fine the margins were in elite football.
He said: “Russia are into the quarter-finals because a late goal in the other match.
“We received similar fortune in the elite round and I highlighted it to the players.
“The margins are so fine at this level and every small detail can make a big difference.
“I have no doubt the players will go home from this tournament as better players but they must apply themselves on and off the pitch if they want have a successful career in the game.
“I think it’s important to look at the bigger picture and getting here is a great achievement but we have fallen short at the finals.
“We need to bridge the gap and exposing the players to this kind of football as often as possible is one way of helping them reach the top.”