Scots target knockout phase with shot at glory
Joy: Scots celebrate qualifying (pic: SNS Group).
It has been 23 years since Scotland’s men last competed in the finals of a major tournament and there is growing confidence in the camp that they can build on recent form to progress to the knockout stages for the first time.
Since taking charge two years ago, former Chelsea assistant and Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke has created a bond more commonly found at club level. It has been a cornerstone of an unbeaten run and a belief that they can defy expectations of finishing bottom of their opening group.
Clarke’s deal, worth about £500,000 a year plus qualifying incentives, ends after next year’s World Cup finals and the 57-year-old has been linked with a return to club football after the Euros.
The SFA is understandably keen to hold on to him and talks about extending his contract are already under way. Successfully guiding his team into the knockout phase should expedite that process.
Ian Maxwell, the SFA’s chief executive, said he expects Clarke to lead the team through the World Cup campaign. “He’s done fantastically well. We wanted to qualify [for the Euros] and that’s what he has done.
“I’m totally sure he will lead us on to Qatar and hopefully he does that off the back of getting out the group, making the last 16 or the last eight. Hopefully, we get as far as we possibly can and enjoy it.”
The curtain goes up for Scotland on Monday afternoon for the Hampden tie against the Czech Republic. Croatia also visit Scotland following a mouth-watering clash with England at Wembley.
Encouraging performances in warm-up matches against the Netherlands and Luxembourg have Clarke nursing “headaches all over the pitch”, a welcome selection conundrum at this stage of his preparations.
Spirit: Steve Clarke (pic: SNS Group).
The 24-team tournament runs from 11 June to 11 July, having been postponed last year due to the pandemic. Seville and St Petersburg have since replaced Bilbao and Dublin as host cities.
The teams are split across six groups. The top 16 teams will progress to the knockout stages, with the top two in each group plus four best third-placed teams going through. The competition then enters the traditional knockout format.
Turkey take on Italy in Rome in the opening match of EURO 2020 on Friday, the Azzurri one of the countries who could upset the odds.
England have not been at their best in recent games under Gareth Southgate but they could well live up to their favourites tag thanks to the comforts of their Wembley home.
Betfair have priced Scotland at 250/1 to win the tournament with just four sides – Slovakia, Hungary, Finland and North Macedonia – longer odds.
England are favourites at 9/2 with France at 5/1.
Friday 11 June
Group A: Turkey v. Italy (20:00, Rome, BBC)
Saturday 12 June
Group A: Wales vs Switzerland (14:00, Baku, BBC) Group B: Denmark vs Finland (15:00, Copenhagen, BBC) Group B: Belgium vs Russia (20:00, St Petersburg, ITV)
Sunday 13 June
Group D: England v Croatia (14:00, London, BBC) Group C: Austria vs North Macedonia (17:00, Bucharest, ITV) Group C: Netherlands vs Ukraine (20:00, Amsterdam, ITV)
Monday 14 June
Group D: Scotland vs Czech Republic (14:00, Glasgow, BBC) Group E: Poland vs Slovakia (17:00, Dublin, ITV) Group E: Spain vs Sweden (20:00, Seville, BBC)
Tuesday 15 June
Group F: Hungary vs Portugal (17:00, Budapest, ITV) Group F: France vs Germany (20:00, Munich, ITV)
Wednesday 16 June
Group B: Finland vs Russia (14:00, St Petersburg, BBC) Group A: Turkey vs Wales (15:00, Baku, BBC) Group A: Italy vs Switzerland (20:00, Rome, ITV)
Thursday 17 June
Group C: Ukraine vs North Macedonia (14:00, Bucharest, ITV) Group B: Denmark vs Belgium (17:00, Copenhagen, ITV) Group C: Netherlands vs Austria (20:00, Amsterdam, BBC)
Friday 18 June
Group E: Sweden vs Slovakia (14:00, St Petersburg, BBC) Group D: Croatia vs Czech Republic (17:00, Glasgow, BBC) Group D: England v Scotland (20:00, London, ITV)
Saturday 19 June
Group F: Hungary vs France (14:00, Budapest, BBC) Group F: Portugal vs Germany (17:00, Munich, ITV) Group E: Spain vs Poland (20:00, Seville, BBC)
Sunday 20 June
Group A: Italy vs Wales (15:00, Rome, ITV) Group A: Switzerland vs Turkey (17:00, Baku, ITV)
Monday 21 June
Group C: North Macedonia vs Netherlands (17:00, Amsterdam, ITV) Group C: Ukraine vs Austria (17:00, Bucharest, ITV) Group B: Russia vs Denmark (20:00, Copenhagen, BBC) Group B: Finland vs Belgium (20:00, St Petersburg, BBC)
Tuesday 22 June
Group D: Czech Republic v England (20:00, London, ITV) Group D: Croatia vs Scotland (20:00, Glasgow, ITV)
Wednesday 23 June
Group E: Slovakia vs Spain (17:00, Seville, ITV) Group E: Sweden vs Poland (17:00, St Petersburg, ITV) Group F: Germany vs Hungary (20:00, Munich, BBC) Group F: Portugal v France (20:00, Budapest, BBC)
Round of 16
Saturday 26 June
1: 2A vs 2B (17:00, Amsterdam) 2: 1A vs 2C (20:00, London)
Sunday 27 June
3: 1C vs 3D/E/F (17:00, Budapest) 4: 1B vs 3A/D/E/F (20:00, Seville)
Monday 28 June
5: 2D vs 2E (17:00, Copenhagen) 6: 1F vs 3A/B/C (20:00, Bucharest)
Tuesday 29 June
7: 1D vs 2F (17:00, London) 8: 1E vs 3A/B/C/D (20:00, Glasgow)
Friday 2 July
QF1: Winner 6 vs Winner 5 (17:00, St Petersburg) QF2: Winner 4 vs Winner 2 (20:00, Munich)
Saturday 3 July
QF3: Winner 3 vs Winner 1 (17:00, Baku) QF4: Winner 8 vs Winner 7 (20:00, Rome)
Tuesday 6 July
SF1: Winner QF2 vs Winner QF1 (20:00, London)
Wednesday 7 July
SF2: Winner QF4 vs Winner QF3 (20:00, London)
Sunday 11 July (20:00, London)