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The Tartan army are back at an international tournament for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France. It’s their 11th appearance at an international tournament and having never qualified past the group stages, Scotland are the underdogs to progress out of a tricky Group D alongside England, Croatia and Czech Republic.
Crucially two of their group games against Croatia and the Czechs will be at Hampden Park, and with four of the six third place-group finishes qualifying for the Round of 16, one famous win could be enough to see Scotland progress to the knock-out phase.
Czech Republic – Glasgow: Monday, June 14, 2pm
England – London: Friday, June 18, 8pm
Croatia – Glasgow: Tuesday, June 22, 8pm
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Scotland finished where they would’ve been expected to in their qualifying group – third behind Belgium and Russia, and ahead of Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino. Whilst that wasn’t enough to qualify directly into the championships, Scotland were off to the play-offs regardless due to their group win in the previous Nations League campaign.
Scotland were pitted in Path C and had a semi-final against Israel, where the winners would progress to play the winners of Serbia v Norway. After beating Israel at home on penalties it was off to Belgrade for the play-off final. Ryan Christie put the Scots 1-0 up and they were minutes away from qualification before Luka Jovic fired in an equaliser for the Serbs in the 90th minute.
Scotland held on in extra-time to force another shoot-out where David Marshall was the hero, saving Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty after Scotland had scored all five of their own.
Steve Clarke had a two-club playing career with St Mirren and Chelsea, and won the FA Cup with the Blues in 1997. His coaching career began at Chelsea in 2004 where he was assistant for four years and further No.2 roles followed at West Ham and Liverpool, before coming a first-team manager for the first time at West Brom in 2012. He subsequently took charge of Reading in 2014, guiding them to an FA Cup semi-final before being sacked in December 2015.
After a year out of football, Clarke took charge of Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership, guiding them to third and Europa League qualification in his first full season in charge. At the end of the 2019 season he left Kilmarnock to replace Alex McLeish as the head coach of Scotland and guided his country to their first major tournament in over 20 years.
Clarke will likely adopt a 3-5-2 formation to ensure both of his star players, Kieran Tierney and Andrew Robertson, are in the starting XI. Tierney will likely start on the left of a back three, with Robertson operating in the left-wing back role. Scotland have the strongest
squad in recent memory with a wealth of talent in midfield as well. Scott McTominay who has been switched between centre half and centre midfield under Clarke but will likely start in midfield with John McGinn and Callum McGregor.
Lyndon Dykes of QPR was Clarke’s preferred centre forward in qualification, with Oli McBurnie also getting some game time. Both have an incredible work rate, but they don’t chip in with a huge number of goals which is why the introduction of Southampton striker Che Adams to the squad could be the catalyst for goals.
In a squad which now has a handful of quality players playing at the top end of the Premier League, it’s Scott McTominay that stands out. You could make a case for captain Andy Robertson, but if he was missing through injury, Kieran Tierney could slot in to left back and there would not be a huge difference in quality.
McTominay though, after becoming a main stay in the Manchester United midfield, is coming off the back of his best season, and there isn’t anybody else in the Scotland squad of his quality that can break up the ball in the middle of the park, and control the game as well as he can. Despite only being 24 and having 23 caps, McTominay will be one of the leaders of this squad.
ONE TO WATCH
Che Adams. It was a big surprise yet huge coup for Scotland when it was announced Adams had declared for the national team. Scotland’s forward line has arguably been their weakest area of the pitch. Adams made the move to the Premier League with Southampton after a prolific season with Birmingham where he scored 22 league goals in 2018/2019. After initially struggling for game time with Danny Ings in great form for Saints, Adams has impressed and looks certain to lead the line this summer for the Scots.
Here’s all the key data on Scotland’s squad.
- Squads and statistics correct at time of data sheet creation.
Pitted in a tough Group D with England, Croatia and Czech Republic, they are up against it if they are to qualify for the knockout stages. They have the advantage of two group games (Czech Republic and Croatia) at home either side of playing England at Wembley.
The first game of the group against the Czech Republic is likely the must-win in order to qualify out of the group, and they have more than enough quality to cause problems. Win that, and even narrow defeats to England and Croatia could see Scotland qualify as one of the four-best third-place finishers.
With two of their group games at Hampden, Scotland have never had a better chance of qualifying for a Round of 16 tie. If they qualify in third behind England and Croatia they will face either The Netherlands, Belgium or Spain, all of whom would be heavily odds-on.
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