Scotland vs Czech Republic | Monday 14th June 2020, 14:00 | BBC
Well, the 23-year wait is almost over for Scotland fans – Euro 2020 will be the first major finals for a generation. Though it's fair to say it wasn't a smooth qualification, with Scots putting those fans through the ringer, with a penalty shoot-out win against, first Israel, then dramatically in Belgrade against Serbia.
The improvement in the national side under Steve Clarke's tutelage is there for all to see. Currently Scotland are on a run of only two defeats in the last 16 matches – and one of those defeats was hot on the heels of an all-night party for the players, upon qualification.
The side is looking stronger than in a number of years now. Kieran Tierney, Scott McTominay, John McGinn, Andy Robertson and Stuart Armstrong have all had fine seasons for their clubs in the Premier League.
Clarke has also chucked in three promising ‘wild cards' to the squad – Chelsea's Billy Gilmour and Nathan Paterson and David Turnbull from Rangers and Celtic. The squad looks well balanced and one that gives the Tartan Army real optimism of qualification from Group D.
The Czech Republic will no doubt be tough opponents, when they rock up to Hampden on Monday afternoon. The Lions will be looking to avenge two fairly recent defeats against the Scots – though in fairness, one of these Scotland wins, was against a covid affected third choice line-up.
Jaroslav Silhavy brings his charges into this Euro opener, on the back of a friendly win against Albania, though that was preceded by a defeat to Italy and also a reverse against Wales in a World Cup qualifier.
This opening match will see both teams target the three points, as one win will put you in a great position to qualify. The Saltcoats-born Clarke, undoubtedly, to use a racing term, has nurtured a squad that are ‘training on' really well, and are improving at a perfect time. So the Bet365 15/8 quotes on Scotland, on home turf, to get the win, looks a nice price to me.
With both teams treating this one as a cup final, I expect it to get feisty, especially in the midfield area. The referee is German, Daniel Siebert. There are two players I expect could find themselves getting into the arbiter's book – John McGinn for the hosts, and the Lions schemer Tomas Soucek.
McGinn will undoubtedly be getting stuck in, in what is a massive game. He was booked remarkably in his final five league starts for Aston Villa, so the 5/2 quote from Unibet on him to be carded in such a high stakes match, appeals.
Soucek has been excellent this season for West Ham. The big midfielder is no stranger to a card however, for his national team – collecting nine yellow cards in the minutes equivalent of 27 matches recently. Hence the 9/2 to be carded with Bet365, jumps off the page as value, in what should be a tasty encounter with these familiar foes.
Clarke of late, has deployed McGinn in a much more advanced role than he plays for his club side. Playing him in behind the striker has borne fruit – with a superb 10 goal haul in his last 18 (nine of those strikes at Hampden) internationals. He gets plenty of shots away, as seen with five in a recent away match in Israel. He is also averaging over one shot on target recently at Hampden.
So I also like both Unibet's 7/4 shots – McGinn to have Over 1.5 shots, also for the Scotland talisman to have Over 0.5 Shots On-Target. With the hungry Scotsman's prowess, especially at the National stadium, let’s hope both of these plays have a chance of landing.
Scotland vs Czech Republic – Scotland to win (15/8 Bet365)
Scotland vs Czech Republic – John McGinn to be carded (5/2 Unibet)
Scotland vs Czech Republic – Tomas Soucek to be carded (9/2 Bet365)
Scotland vs Czech Republic – John McGinn to have Over 1.5 Shots (7/4 Unibet)
Scotland vs Czech Republic – John McGinn to have Over 0.5 Shots-On-Target (7/4 Unibet)