Can Scotland cause the upset against England at EURO 2020?
Background Image Via: Nicolas Raymond. CC BY 2.0.
November 30th, 1872. The date international football began. Scotland would take on England in front of 4,000 fans at Hamilton Crescent, Partick. The match would finish 0-0, though it'd be the start of one epic sporting rivalry.
From breaking English hearts with a 3-2 victory just a year after the Three Lions' World Cup success in 1967, to their only meeting at a major tournament when Paul Gascoine scored *that* goal at EURO 96. There have been some absolute belters. Heck, the last time these two sides went toe-to-toe, three goals were scored in the last six minutes. Harry Kane would break Scottish hearts in the 93rd minute following a quick-fire Lee Griffiths brace.
The question is this; can Scotland go one better at Wembley tonight?
First and foremost, let's talk about the journey. Scotland hadn't participated in a major tournament since France 1998, though Steve Clarke's boys were brilliant in their qualifying group. Sadly, they'd fall just short, though the memories of the play-off against Serbia will forever live long in Tartan hearts. David Marshall heroics coupled with some outstanding Scotland penalties secured a place at the delayed EURO 2020, booking their place for a date with the old enemy.
Scotland were beaten by two moments of class against the Czech Republic, though, on the whole, the Tartan Army have to feel encouraged with what they witnessed. Scott McTominay was as resolute as ever while John McGinn always tried to make things happen. Andy Robertson's marauding runs forward were the highlight and for this one, the Liverpool defender will have his pal Kieran Tierney back alongside him.
Rivalry games are unlike any other. Form absolutely goes out the window, while it often comes down to who wants it the most. Flower of Scotland will be belted out loud and proud by those boys in blue before getting down to business. Start well, don't try to be the hero and Clarke's men will be in this game from the first minute to the last.
In terms of player quality, England are the dominant side in the fixture. Though the media are enjoying making this one out to be a real David vs Goliath battle, when in reality, these sides are far closer than many an Englishman would care to admit. Yes, the Three Lions should win this fixture, but to completely write Scotland off before a ball has even been kicked is just plain wrong.
There are some areas Scotland will be looking at targeting, though. Can the right-footed Kieran Trippier really perform at a high level at left-back for two games on the spin? Is Tyrone Mings good enough to replace Harry Maguire or does he have one moment of madness in him? Will the pressure of playing in a rivalry game affect a Jordan Pickford who is known to make a high-profile mistake every now and then? Trust me when I say, this England team has weaknesses. It's up to Scotland to expose them.
Clarke's Scotland relish the underdog tag. Everyone was betting on Serbia in the aforementioned playoff game and look how that turned out, while that 2-2 draw with England will remain at the back of English minds.
Scotland holds all the aces. They need this game more than their counterparts as a draw here is the minimum requirement if the Scots want any chance at progressing into the knock-out rounds, while England may be at risk of letting the concentration and focus slip following their opening-match victory against Croatia.
English tension will grow with each passing minute Scotland can keep Harry Kane and company at bay. The Wembley crowd will suddenly start to feel a little jittery. Don't make any silly mistakes, particularly in the early stages, and the longer the game goes on, the more Scotland will fancy their chances.
Can Scotland really beat England tonight? With a little luck, grit and determination, absolutely they can.