If the Scotland football team are to make Euro 2020 memorable for themselves, they will have to overcome plenty of past demons.
Scotland as a football nation are something of a contradiction. On the one hand, they are one of two oldest international teams in the world alongside England. On the other, they have a history of failing to deliver the goods in top competitions. The Scottish Premier League boasts one of the oldest derby matches in the world – the Old Firm Derby between Rangers and Celtic. However, the league isn’t seen by many players as a place they would like to be at. But it remains undeniable that Scotland have procuded – and continue to produce – some mighty fine players. It is under this myriad of contradictions that they gear up for Euro 2020.
The 2020 European Championships will be their eleventh appearance in an international event of note. However, if they are to make Euro 2020 memorable, they will have to overcome plenty of past demons.
The first FIFA World Cup was held in 1930 but Scotland did not enter the first three tournaments – despite their historical significance in the sport.
They qualified for the 1950 World Cup in Brazil but withdrew from the tournament. To understand why they came to this decision, it is important to know the history of the sport back then.
England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland (then unified) withdrew from FIFA in 1920. This was due to a disagreement with FIFA over the status of amateur players.
In the absence of World Cup participation, they focused on the British Home Championships – a four-team tournament in existence since 1883.
However, the four countries returned to the FIFA fold after the Second World War. Thus, they were eligible for participation in the 1950 World Cup, the first to be held post WWII.
FIFA advised that the top two nations in the British Home Championships will qualify for the 1950 World Cup. But the Scottish Football Association said they would only send their team if they finished atop the BHC standings.
They came second to England, and Scotland – despite being eligible, remember – chose not to take part in the World Cup.
A similar scenario came up in 1954 but Scotland sent a team. Their fans probably wished they didn’t – they conceded 8 goals in 2 games, including 7 in a match against defending champions Uruguay.
Thereafter, they made it to the World Cup on seven occasions – once in 1958 and 1998 and also in every tournament held from 1974-1990. They never made it past the first round.
The same was true of their forays into the European Championships. In three seperate occasions they qualified but never made it beyond the group stages.
The current Scotland side have a number of young and talented players in their ranks. However, their progress to the second round will depend on manager Steve Clarke’s tactical acumen.
In his time at the helm of the job, he’s proven himself astute at devising plans that bring out the best in his players. This includes managing to accomodate skipper Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney – both left-backs by trade – in the same starting XI.
Clarke uses Tierney as a left-sided centre-back, a position he’s played at for club Arsenal when they revert to three at the back. However, both he and Robertson are encouraged to join in attack.
The likes of Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, John Fleck, John McGinn, David Turnbull and Billy Gilmour provide plenty of depth in midfield.
Up front, there’s Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes from whom goals will be expected. And don’t forget Ryan Fraser, who can play in multiple positions.
“There’s still improvement to come and we’re all excited for next week now.”
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 6, 2021
The number of options Clarke has at his disposal is good for two reasons. Firstly, Scotland lack a proper top-notch goalscoring midfielder or prolific centre-forward.
This means the manager will most likely change tactics depending on the opposition. How well-drilled this Scotland side are in the tournament will determine their chances of making it to the knockouts.
History has proved that doing so is not an easy task. But if any Scotland team could break that jinx, it would be this one.