|Euro 2020: Scotland v Czech Republic|
|Date: 14 June Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Kick off: 14:00 BST|
Captain Andy Robertson has urged Scotland to believe they belong on the big stage as they prepare to end “23 long years of waiting”.
Scotland face the Czech Republic in front of 12,000 fans at Hampden on Monday in the men’s national team’s first major tournament since 1998.
Group D opened with England beating Croatia 1-0 at Wembley on Sunday.
“Since the manager came in he’s always said we’re a good squad but lacking a wee bit of belief,” said Robertson.
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“Being able to qualify for a tournament for the first time in 23 years gives you belief you can do it again and go and perform in the big tournaments.
“I’d like us to have more belief in ourselves, more confidence, in being able to show what we can do. Hopefully we can do that on the biggest stage. If we do, we’re a right good team on our day.
“We’re all so excited. It’s been 23 long years waiting. We can feel the nation is excited for it and it’s important we try to keep a smile on their faces.”
Steve Clarke’s squad had a glimpse of the Euros fever gripping the country when they travelled north to Glasgow on Sunday from their training base in north-east England.
Robertson aims to tap into that feelgood factor and says having fans back in Hampden – where Scotland will also face Croatia – for the first time in 19 months “makes a huge difference”.
“The last time the Scotland fans were in was the Kazakhstan game and a lot has changed since then in the team and squad,” the 27-year-old Liverpool defender added.
“I’m sure we could have sold out Hampden plenty of times over for this game. There are 12,000 lucky enough to be in there but the whole nation will be watching and we’ll feel that support and that love. Hopefully we can do them proud.
“The fact a lot of kids, teenagers and people in their early 20s, have unfortunately never witnessed us in a major tournament, and the fact that’s now going to happen, I hope it inspires the nation.”
Head coach Clarke has no injury worries in his 26-man squad, but says he has already decided on his starting XI to face the Czechs.
Midfielder John Fleck will not feature in the opener, having missed several days’ training after testing positive for Covid-19 at the pre-tournament camp in Spain.
Full-back Nathan Patterson and midfielders Billy Gilmour and David Turnbull all made their debut in the warm-up friendlies and staked a claim to start, but Clarke is expected to go with the tried and tested.
The Czechs have drafted in Tomas Koubek – who joins the squad on Tuesday – after fellow goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka was ruled out with a back injury.
They otherwise are at full strength, with Slavia Prague defender Ondrej Kudela omitted from the squad as he serves a 10-match UEFA ban for racially abusing Rangers’ Glen Kamara in a Europa League tie.
What are they saying?
Scotland head coach Steve Clarke: “The Tartan Army can get carried away and over-excited for us. We are excited to be involved in the tournament for the first time in a long time, but we have to keep emotional control so that we play to our full potential. I believe if we do that we can get a result.”
Czech Republic head coach Jaroslav Silhavy: “We are quite nervous, but it’s normal given what we are facing, which is the peak of our careers with the national team.
“I think against the games we have played against Scotland, they are stronger now, they play more efficiently. It will be a close game decided by details.”
Familiar rivals a set-piece danger
Scotland are aiming for a third straight win over the Czechs in the space of nine months after beating them home and away in the Nations League last year.
A Covid outbreak meant the Czechs fielded a makeshift team for a 2-1 defeat in September, before Clarke’s men won 1-0 at Hampden the following month.
The Czechs are ranked 40th in the world – four places higher than Scotland – and qualified comfortably as runners-up behind England in Group A.
Jaroslav Silhavy’s team have forged a reputation as set-piece specialists, with 54% of their goals in qualifying (seven of 13) coming from dead-ball situations. It was the joint-highest ratio, alongside Hungary, of any side to qualify.
What are Scotland’s chances?
Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis, Nielsen’s Gracenote
Scotland are rated the 16th most likely team to make it to the last 16 with a 57% chance of doing so. The chance of Scotland winning the European Championship is just 0.5%.
The Czech Republic are the weakest of Scotland’s three opponents and the Scots are favourites to win with 40% chance of taking the three points and 68% chance of at least a point.
- Scotland have won each of their past three matches against the Czech Republic, their longest current winning run against any of the other 23 nations qualified for Euro 2020. It’s the first meeting between both sides at a major tournament.
- This will be Scotland’s 11th appearance at major tournament (World Cup and Euros), including their first Euro participation since 1996. They have never progressed past the group stages in any of their previous 10.
- The Czech Republic are taking part in their 10th European Championship (Czechoslovakia included), including their seventh in a row – an uninterrupted streak since 1996; only Germany (13) and France (8) are currently on longer such runs.
- Czechoslovakia lifted the European Championship trophy in 1976, the only occasion a Euro final has been decided on penalties (2-2 a.e.t. vs West Germany, 5-3 pens). As the Czech Republic, they were also involved in the first Euro final to be decided by a golden goal (1-2 vs Germany, Euro 1996).
- Scotland have picked up just one victory in each of their two previous appearances in the European Championships, with both wins coming in their final group stage match (3-0 vs CIS in 1992, 1-0 vs Switzerland in 1996).