STEVE Clarke has backed Scotland to rediscover the spirit of Serbia at Euro 2020 as they bid to secure a place in the knockout rounds of a major tournament for the first time in their history.

The national team will play their first Group D match against the Czech Republic at Hampden tomorrow afternoon and anticipation and excitement are reaching fever pitch across the country.

Clarke is confident his charges can meet the expectations of their supporters and achieve their goal of a place in the last 16 if they perform to the level they did in the play-off final in Belgrade back in November.

Andy Robertson and his team mates were outstanding in the Rajko Mitic Stadium and secured qualification for their first finals in 23 years in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

Clarke is quietly confident that Scotland can do the Tartan Army proud at Euro 2020 because of the heights they scaled in the most important match of his two year tenure.

“We have grown as a squad and that’s why we are here,” he said. “The most pleasing thing for me was that the best we have played was in the biggest game in Serbia. 

“In the game in Serbia we showed two sides. First our quality. And then, when we got the kick in the nuts in the last minute, we showed our grit and determination to get through the extra-time. 

“To get it to penalties and get the qualification; that’s the big thing for me about the evolution – that when they had to produce in that game in Belgrade, they produced. I think that is a big thing.” 

Scotland won the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel in Glasgow in October and then the final against Serbia in Belgrade in November despite not having any fans cheering them on because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A limited number of their supporters will be allowed into Hampden for the matches against the Czech Republic tomorrow and Croatia on Tuesday week as well as Wembley for the eagerly-anticipated meeting with England on Friday.

Clarke, who admitted he had decided on 10 of the players who will be his starting line-up yesterday, believes having their vocal backing will boost the national team’s chances of success in the coming days.

“The fans will be fantastic,” he said. “I cannot wait to hear noise inside Hampden again because it's been a long time.

“We had a game in Israel (the World Cup qualifier in Tel Aviv in March) with just 5,000 in there and the atmosphere was good.

“We played Holland last week in an empty stadium in the Algarve. But then against Luxembourg with just 1,000 people inside the ground – it makes a big difference.

“There will only be 12,500 on Monday, but the Tartan Army boys who are in there will make themselves heard, I'm sure.”

Former Kilmarnock manager Clarke confessed he will be privileged to lead Scotland out in their first major tournament since France ’98.

“I'll feel proud walking out on Monday,” he said. “I'll be emotional – I hope you don't see that side of it!

“But no, I'll be very proud. And of course, there will be emotion. It's a big occasion after 23 years. We've waited so long. To be the head coach that leads the team out is an honour.”