Scotland boss Steve Clarke has issued a rallying Euro 2020 call insisting his squad are are more than ready for the nation’s biggest game in a generation.
Physically, mentally and tactically Clarke is confident his squad are on point to make an impact in the Scots’ first tournament for 23 years.
Scotland will kick-off their Euro 2020 campaign with a Group D opener against Czech Republic at Hampden in front of 12,000 fans.
Although it is Scotland’s first appearance at a finals since the 1998 World Cup, Clarke insists lack of major tournament experience is not an issue.
That is because he has a team packed with ‘big game players’ such as captain Andy Robertson and teen sensation Billy Gilmour who have both won the Champions League.
Clarke insists the magnitude of the Euros was hammered home when the squad returned to Scotland from their North of England base – and were greeted by honking horns on the motorway as they drove from the airport to the team hotel.
Clarke has backed his Bravehearts to rise to the challenge to make the nation proud.
He said: “I’ve been around the block a few times myself – having been involved in some big matches – so the players will be properly prepared.
“That’s physically, mentally and tactically.
“That’s out job.
“It’s been a long wait – we’ve all waited a long, long time for this moment – so let’s make the most of it.
“That’ll be the message.
“One of my assistants Steven Reid went to the World Cup with his country.
“He’ll be able to share that with the players.
“We’ve also got a lot of big-game players; Andy Robertson has played in World Championships, won the Champions League with Liverpool.
“Billy Gilmour was involved with Chelsea in the Champions League a couple of weeks ago, Scott McTominay played in a European final a few weeks ago.
“I’ve coached a team in a European final myself.
“We understand big games and big moments.
“They’re for big players and we believe we’ve got enough big players to handle the occasion.”
Clarke insists he had already selected his starting XI on the eve of the Czech Republic match although he will not tell the squad the team until the day of the match.
Having been based at Rockliffe Park in Darlington for the build up to the Euro 2020 opener the Scots jetted back to Scotland 24 hours before kick-off.
Highs and lows.
After 23 years of waiting to return to a men's major tournament, there's just one day left.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 13, 2021
Clarke and his squad had been isolated from much of the Euro 2020 fever gripping Scotland.
They soon experienced it on their return.
He said: “It feels like everyone in the country is excited about the tournament and that’s fantastic.
“That said, I was a little bit nervous on the drive from the airport to the hotel when we were on the M8 and all the cars were slowing down to toot their horns.
“They were swerving to avoid each other but thankfully there was no incidents!
“Everyone wanted to wish us well and that’s great.
“So we’re definitely aware of the magnitude of this game and know what it means to everyone.
“And like we keep saying, we just want to get to the game and get started – and hopefully we can achieve a little bit more.
“And do the country proud.”
Clarke is acutely aware there needs to be a balance within his squad where the adrenaline of such a momentous occasion becomes a positive and not a hindrance.
With so many players with big game experience he is confident the Scots will control their emotions.
He said: “They are excited but we have a lot of experienced players in the squad, remember.
“We have players who know what it’s like to be involved in big games like this.
“So their job will be to keep a lid on it.
“I don’t want to tell any of the lads that they shouldn’t get excited because sometimes when you’re excited you play your best football.
“But it needs to be controlled.
“We need to control our emotions and make sure that we play our game properly.
“And hopefully that’s good enough to get us the win that we want to start with.”
Clarke has no injury concerns for the Czech Republic clash.
Such is the set up at Euro 2020 three points from the three group D games could conceivably be enough to progress to the next phase.
A victory against Czech Republic would be a mammoth step towards progressing from the groups.
One of the conundrums facing Clarke for the opener is whether to really go for it with a strike partnership of Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams, or just play with one.
When asked if he would be bold by starting the Dykes-Adams partnership, Clarke replied: “We go into every game trying to win it.
“That’s the reality and that’s how we’ll approach this one. We want to win.
“But if we can’t win it then don’t lose it – I’d say that’s a good way to set our your style as a football team.”
Despite the enormity of the Euro opener for Scotland football was placed in stark perspective when Denmark and Inter Milan midfielder Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest when collapsing in the first half against Finland.
Officials confirmed the midfielder was stable in hospital and had sent his greetings to his national team-mates.
Update regarding Christian Eriksen. pic.twitter.com/YuKD9hS9LV
— DBU – En Del Af Noget Større (@DBUfodbold) June 13, 2021
Clarke said: “It was a horrible incident.
“The only thing for me to say on behalf of my staff, my players and everybody at the Scottish FA is that we wish Christian Eriksen a full and quick recovery.
“I hope his family – who must have found the whole ordeal extremely traumatic – are okay.
“I hope they get a lot of support and they come through it together.
“As soon as I saw the incident I actually turned the television off and I just went for a walk.
“It just wasn’t nice to see.
“The Danes are in our World Cup group so the vast majority of our players were watching the game and it was tough.
“What I would say is that I thought the TV coverage was really poor.
“They should have cut away from the incident as soon as it happened.
“Everyone could tell immediately it was serious so I didn’t think that part of is played out very well.”