Euro 2020 preview: Scotland

Twenty-three long years since their last appearance at a major tournament, Scotland are back, managed by a former Blue and containing one of our own, birthday boy Billy Gilmour, in their ranks…

Scotland – Group D

Despite featuring regularly at World Cups between 1954 and 1998, this will only be the Scots’ third appearance at a European Championships. At their previous two, in Sweden in 1992 and England in 1996, they were knocked out in the group stage.

That four teams who come third advance to the last 16 will give Steve Clarke and his side genuine belief they can make it out of Group D, also containing England, Croatia and Czech Republic. Their opening game, against Czech Republic at their Hampden Park home, could go a long way to deciding their fate.

Last November, it was a penalty shoot-out play-off victory over Serbia in Belgrade that provided probably the pinnacle of Scottish football this century, and Clarke has built a sturdy and tactically flexible team who make life difficult for their opponents.

While they do have some familiar names to Premier League fans – the likes of Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Scott McTominay – Clarke has also leaned heavily on domestic players in form. The former Chelsea right-back and assistant manager isn’t afraid to change shape and selection to counter his opponents’ threats.

The opponents

Scotland will host the Czechs and Croatia at Hampden Park roared on by around 12,000 supporters, many of whom will be watching their country at an international tournament for the first time. They will also play England at Wembley in a repeat of a Euro 96 group meeting.

Euphoric home backing in two fixtures and a determination not to simply make up the numbers now they’ve qualified means Scotland are certain to be awkward opponents.

The Blues

Billy Gilmour received his maiden senior call-up when Clarke named his 26-strong group last month. Gilmour had featured regularly for junior Scotland sides, including in their ultimately unsuccessful European Under-21 Championship qualifying campaign last season.

Gilmour has played in Scotland’s two recent warm-up games, against Holland and Luxembourg, notably impressing in the latter. Scotland have plenty of options in the middle of the park, but Gilmour’s calm head and ability to retain possession will appeal to Clarke, particularly if his side are holding on to a lead.

The fixtures

Scotland v Czech Republic, Hampden Park, Monday 14 June, 2pm
Scotland v England, Wembley, Friday 18 June, 8pm
Scotland v Croatia, Hampden Park, Tuesday 22 June, 8pm

If Scotland win their group, they will play the runner-up of Group F (France, Germany, Portugal, Hungary).

If Scotland come second, they will play the runner-up of Group E (Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia).

Winners of groups do not automatically play runners-up, and vice versa, because four third-placed teams also qualify.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Hearts), David Marshall (Derby County), Jon McLaughlin (Rangers)

Defenders: Liam Cooper (Leeds), Nathan Patterson (Rangers), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Grant Hanley (Norwich City), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Stephen O'Donnell (Motherwell), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal), Declan Gallagher (Motherwell), Greg Taylor (Celtic), Jack Hendry (Oostende)

Midfielders: Billy Gilmour (Chelsea), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), David Turnbull (Celtic), Ryan Christie (Celtic), John Fleck (Sheffield United)

Forwards: Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United), Lyndon Dykes (Queens Park Rangers), Che Adams (Southampton), Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian), James Forrest (Celtic)