• Ruaraidh Britton

23 year wait ends as it’s time to dance for the Scots

We’ve finally made it. Over two decades of failure ends today as Scotland begin their group stage campaign at Hampden Park against Czech Republic. Some of us had sweet dreams of that first tournament goal, others were wide awake with adrenaline into the early hours; it’s hard to believe the day has finally come. But what would make the day even more special, is that first tournament win in 25 years since overcoming Switzerland at Villa Park. Scotland have little margin for error if they want to reach the knockouts, but today is must win if they want to even dream of third.

Arguably, today’s opposition is the easiest of the lot, with Scotland having beaten the Czech Republic twice last year. Admittedly one game was against under 18’s after a Covid scare in the camp, but the senior players fared no better, and five wins in the last five against the Czech’s make today’s game feel like one of those that Scotland should get the business done. They have the far better squad, the confidence and knowledge they can get the result, and the Tartan Army are back. It’s only 12,000 inside the ground today, but given it’s been 23 years, they should be sounding like 120,000 by kick off.

Interestingly today is the first time that Scotland will face VAR, and it begs the question just how will that go against Scotland today. But these lads deal with it week in week out, they know what to expect. The main thing we have to contend with today is the likes of Tomas Soucek of West Ham, his club mate Vladimir Coufal, and Burnley’s Matej Vydra. There is some hidden firepower in this side, with plenty of Bundesliga regulars perfectly capable of giving Scotland a hard time today. If Scotland can play the game their way, control the tempo, and get a good start, then fire can easily be met with a raging Scots inferno.

Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams worked exceptionally well against Luxembourg, despite their frustrating finishing in front of goal. Here’s to praying they get the job done today, but let’s not forget the other lads in the side who have had a good time in front of goal for Scotland. John McGinn has to start today to give us a good chance of getting the result we need, especially alongside Billy Gilmour, and it’s highly anticipated that will be the case. Gilmour’s a real treat to watch, and his football can bewilder opposition at times, so if he can work his magic today, we could be in for a real treat.

I personally hope to see Liam Cooper on the team sheet come lunch time. He was outstanding in the warmup and that solidity at the back will be crucial, because goal difference will be massive in this tournament, and not conceding any today would be the best start possible for Scotland. Copper in front of David Marshall and I would feel comfortable that we can keep their efforts tamed. As for the big question around Stephen O’Donnell and Nathan Patterson, I would edge slightly towards Patterson the more I think about his style of play, but we can probably expect to see the more experienced O’Donnell take the reins today.

We’re a matter of hours from kick off, and I cannot bare the nerves. Up since the crack of dawn plotting team sheets and predicting scores, it’s starting to get tense. Not a feeling we’ve often had, but one I am absolutely loving. Now get the beers out, the jerseys on, and get the tunes on. Today is going to be a belter.