At last, the long-delayed Euro2020 tournament is about to start, with the opening fixture of Italy v Turkey taking place in Rome tomorrow evening. Of the 24 participating nations, Scotland is a relative minnow but few would doubt the enormous heart of this small nation at the western edge of Europe. The team qualified after a nail-biting penalty shoot-out against Serbia last November, and Euro2020 is the first major international competition for Scotland since the 1998 World Cup in France.
Scotland’s fixtures in Group D are as follows:
- Monday 14 June Scotland v Czech Republic (2pm kick-off)
- Friday 18 June Scotland v England (8pm kick-off)
- Tuesday 22 June Scotland v Croatia (8pm kick-off)
The England game will take place at Wembley but Scotland will have home advantage in the other two matches which will be played at Hampden Park in Glasgow. The top two teams from each of the six groups will go through to the Round of 16 plus the four best third-placed teams.
There is confidence in Scotland that the national side can progress from the Group Stage to the Round of 16 and that positivity is shared by the self-proclaimed “Special One”, Jose Mourinho, who has said this week “In this moment, Scotland has a nucleus of important players in the Premier League and playing in important clubs in the Premier League. You look to Tierney of Arsenal, Robertson of Liverpool, McTominay of Manchester United – they are a Premier League level team. I think they are better than in the past 20 years. I know there are other good teams in the group, but maybe it can be England first and then Scotland second?”.
Despite Mourinho’s supportive stance, the bookmakers take a very different view of Scotland’s prospects with BetFred offering odds of 11/8 that Scotland will qualify from the Group. These odds are significantly longer than those on offer for England (second favourite, after France, to win the tournament), Croatia and the Czech Republic. And the odds for Scotland to lift the Euro2020 trophy are a whopping 400/1 from some bookmakers.
But the Euro tournament has known upsets in the past. Think back to 2004 when Greece defeated Portugal 1-0 in the final. And in 2016, Iceland – with a population smaller than Bristol – finished second in Group F and then defeated England in the Round of 16. Many pundits do not even place Scotland on their lists of underdogs – Austria, Denmark, Ukraine et al – that may upset the applecart this time round, but the Tartan Army holds a different view.
The squad has a depth in it lacking in the past and, led by 27-year old Andy Robertson (Liverpool’s left back), has delivered solid performances during the build-up to the competition, drawing 2-2 with the Netherlands and beating Luxemburg 1-0 in the past few weeks. Steve Clarke, Scotland manager, believes that Scotland can beat the odds, saying “It’s three tough games against three difficult opponents – but we have to relish that challenge. Experience helps. I’ve banged on a couple of times since getting this job about international experience. Being used to playing international matches and being successful. Not losing is important and the recent run we’ve been on is decent. We want to continue that into the tournament”.