Clarke springs a surprise
Scotland manager Steve Clarke this week named the squad he will take to this summer’s Euro 2020 championships. The national coach has a mix of youth and experience, blending skill, flair and appetite with battle-hardened veterans.
Most followers of the Tartan Army had expected a surprise or two but ended up with three shock additions to the 26-man pool. Previously uncapped Billy Gilmour (Chelsea), Nathan Paterson (Rangers) and David Turnbull were brought into the fold. Neither was alive when Scotland opened in Paris with a 2-1 defeat to Brazil.
But this Scotland squad isn’t about living in the past, constantly reminded of failures. It’s a collection of ambitious, skilled players who are out to write their own little piece of history. What better way to do that than to come through the group and make it to knockout Euro football for the first time?
There’s experience between the sticks
Seasoned pros in the camp, hoping to steer the young guns on target, include Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie, John McGinn and Scott McKenna. There’s also bags of big-game experience between the sticks with Craig Gordon, David Marshall and John McLaughin.
Manchester United’s Scott McTominay’s name is on the list, but he’ll face a race against the clock to be fit after hobbling off in the Reds Devils’ recent Premier League match against Fulham.
The confirmed injury list is a worrying one for fans with some top names left behind in the medical room. Ryan Jack, Kenny McLean, Oli McBurnie and Oli Burke will all watch on TV. The names of note who failed to make the grade are Leigh Griffiths, Lawrence Shankland and Ryan Gauld. The latter fell short despite attracting rave reviews this season in Portuguese football.
On announcing his squad, Clarke told those who weren’t picked to keep themselves in shape, fit and sharp as things can change between now and Scotland’s opening game against the Czech Republic on Monday 14 June. The names on the sheet have been written in pencil at this stage.
Not an impossible task
Scotland will play two warm-up matches early next month before turning their attention to Euro 2020. They face the Netherlands on 2 June and Luxembourg four days later. Clarke and his backroom staff will use these friendlies to put the finishing touches to the line-up, formation and tactics.
Things will then get serious. Scotland has been dropped into Group D, and, at first glance, it doesn’t look like an impossible task. They share a pool with the Czech Republic, who they play in the opener at Hampden. The dark blues then march south to do battle with the Auld Enemy at Wembley on 18 June, which promises to be the standout fixture of the group campaign.
To have any hope of going through, the Scots will be looking to have, at the very least, two or three points on the board before winding up against Croatia on 22 June. In the pre-tournament betting, England is favourites with Betfair to win the group, but the runner up spot looks there for the taking. The Tartan Army will dream it, and the players will believe they are good enough to achieve it.
Value in the visitors to Wembley
Bettors looking to act early to secure their share of the value will find there are some eye-catching quotes on Scotland this summer. They are 3.185/40 to defeat the Czech Republic on matchday one. That’s despite holding home advantage and having beaten the same opponent home and away last year in the Nations League.
There’s an even bigger price if you are bold enough to back Scotland to beat England with the away win trading at 9.417/2. Of course, they’d require their fair share of luck to do that, and, on paper, England are the better team, but the stats tell us there’s value in the underdogs. Scotland battled to a 2-2 draw in their last match with England, only denied victory in 2017 by a 90th-minute equaliser from Harry Kane.
The final group game pairs Scotland with Croatia, and Clarke’s men are a generous 3.7511/4 to win. The history books show that although Croatia is a solid unit, ranked 14th in the world; they have never beaten Scotland in five previous attempts. The last meeting ended in a 2-0 win for the Scots at Hampden in 2013, the goals scored by Robert Snodgrass and Steven Naismith.
Foolish to write them off
There’s a similar theme in the Euro 2020 competition betting, with Scotland ranked as outsiders in the outright betting, as you would expect, and in the group betting. That will all change if they are able to claim a home win over the Czech Republic and are competitive in London in front of thousands of fans.
Scotland to win Euro 2020? We’ve seen some crazy results over the past 18 months, but surely even that’s too far. Backers will get odds of 340339/1. To win the group is more likely with 19.5 trading on the Exchange or 2.447/5 to qualify.