SCOTLAND fans have been counting the days until the national team’s second Euro 2020 match ever since goalkeeper David Marshall saved that Aleksandar Mitrovic penalty in the play-off final against Serbia back in November.

It doesn’t come any tastier than a game against the auld enemy England at Wembley for members of the Tartan Army.

But the meeting with Gareth Southgate’s star-studded side will be far from straightforward easy for Steve Clarke’s team. Their opponents are highly fancied to win the Group D fixture, their section and even the tournament overall.

Here we have a look at why and assess what their chances are in the coming weeks.




Pretty good. Gareth Southgate’s men may have lost twice since competitive football restarted after the first coronavirus lockdown last summer – they were beaten by Denmark at home in October and Belgium away in November in the Nations League.

However, they started the Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign well with three comfortable victories over San Marino, Albania and Poland in March and go into the tournament on the back of a six game winning run.

Their opening Group D match today will be a re-run of their Russia 2018 semi-final against Croatia so there will be no shortage of motivation there. The game at Wembley offers them a gilt-edged chance to avenge their painful extra-time defeat.

England topped their Euro 2020 qualifying group, winning seven and losing just one of their fixtures, scoring 37 times and conceding on just six occasions. The loss came against the Czech Republic, who they will also come up against again on June 22, over in Prague. However, they thrashed them 5-0 at home in Group A.

History shows that England do well on their own soil – they won the World Cup in 1966 and reached the semi-final of Euro ’96 before being beaten on penalties by eventual winners Germany after Southgate missed his spot kick.




Where do you start? Southgate has an abundance of talent at his disposal in every area of the park. His big problem will be deciding which starting XI to pick. He could probably field a second choice side and still be confident of victory.

However, the pick of the bunch is undoubtedly Harry Kane. Is the Spurs forward the best striker in the world today? Robert Lewandowski of Poland probably just edges it.

But nobody in qualifying, not Artem Dyzuba of Russia, not Lewandowski, not Romelu Lukaku of Belgium, not Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, was on target as often. He netted 12 times in 8 matches.

Could the Russia 2018 top goalscorer finish Euro 2020 as the leading marksman? It would be foolish to bet against it. 

The 27-year-old can create as well as convert. He recorded 14 assists in the Premier League in the 2020/21 campaign. Only Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich racked up more in the top five European leagues.

The England front three of Kane, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling, if that is who Southgate selects, will have opposition defences quaking in their adidas Predator boots.




Fatigue. Being overplayed has long been a problem for England at major tournaments and that could certainly be an issue at the end of a long and Covid-19 disrupted campaign.

In years gone by their star players have been unable to reproduce their heroics at club level on the international stage when it matters most. Other countries are far more considerate of their national associations’ needs and that is often reflected in performances at the European Championship and World Cup finals.

The Chelsea and Manchester City players who were involved in the Champions League final in Porto last month – and Ben Chillwell, Phil Foden, Reece James, Mason Mount, Sterling, John Stones and Kyle Walker all started – have hardly had much time to recharge their batteries. 

That said, UEFA’s executive committee adjusted the laws back in March and managers will now be allowed to make five substitutions during the course of a 90 minutes. That will allow Southgate to ease the physical demands on his men considerably and could prove crucial to their chances.

There are, too, concerns among some England fans about the reliability of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

The Everton man has won 31 caps for his country now and was a key performer for them at Russia 2018 despite his inexperience. He was between the sticks in their penalty shoot-out win over Colombia in the second round and kept a clean sheet in the quarter-final victory over Sweden.

The 27-year-old is capable of spectacular saves. But he has been prone to the occasional costly gaffe, not least when tested by a long-range shot from outside his area, of late. Back-up keepers Dean Henderson of Manchester United and Sam Johnstone of West Brom have two caps between them.




Take your pick. Southgate has some exceptional young footballers at his disposal and any one of them could distinguish himself a Euro 2020. Jude Bellingham, Foden, James, Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Marcus Rashford, Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho have all enjoyed outstanding seasons and go into the finals with confidence high. They can all light up the finals and make names for themselves. 




Why not? Gareth Southgate, the former Middlesbrough and England defender, has been in charge of his country for five years now and has grown in the role during that time.

He silenced many of the sceptics who doubted he was cut out for such a high-pressure and high-profile position and became a hero in his homeland when he led his team to the semi-final of Russia 2018. It was the first time in 28 years they had made it through to the last four of the World Cup.

He has experience, strength in depth, some world-class performers and his team is playing at home. It is not for nothing that England are joint favourites to prevail along with world champions France.




The Three Lions are joint favourites to triumph along with Les Bleus with many bookmakers. Sky Bet are offering odds of 9/2 for England to end those 55 years of hurt. They are also 4/11 to win Group D and 1/50 to qualify for the knockout rounds.




Much depends on who is fit and available and what system Gareth Southgate wants to play with. He has used a 3-4-3 as well as a 4-3-3 since reaching the Russia 2018 semi-final with varying degrees of success. In the Euro 2020 warm-up friendlies against Austria and Romania he started with a 4-2-3-1 formation.

But if Southgate puts his faith in a 4-3-3 in the opening Group D game against Croatia at Wembley today he could go with Jordan Pickford in goals, Kyle Walker at right back, John Stones and Harry Maguire at centre back and Luke Shaw at left back. In midfield, Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips and Mason Mount should feature. Up front Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane should get the nod.

All that said, Southgate has options in every position. For example, Kieran Trippier and Reece James could easily start at right back and Ben Chilwell could be preferred at left back.

In the middle of the park, it is unlikely that Jordan Henderson will start even though the Liverpool man played in the second-half of the friendly win over Romania last Sunday. That was his first game in nearly four months. Jack Grealish, who has enjoyed a decent campaign with Aston Villa, will be hopeful of being handed a run-out at some stage.

So, too, will Marcus Rashford, who scored the winner from the penalty spot last weekend, and Jadon Sancho. Southgate has all kinds of headaches. But his fellow managers would give their right arm to have the sort of problems which he is currently wrestling with. 




Not since Sven-Goran Eriksson was in situ has an England manager enjoyed the longevity of the current incumbent. Southgate got the job in unusual circumstances back in 2016 when Sam Allardyce was forced to stand down after just one match in charge following a tabloid sting. The former Middlesbrough and England Under-21 manager has proved those who doubted he was up to the task wrong. He was lauded by his compatriots after leading the national team to the semi-finals of Russia 2018, where they were unfortunate to get beaten by Croatia after extra-time. He is not without his detractors, but he has shown he has the character to deal with the criticism and scrutiny.




England’s record at the European Championship finals since they reached the semi-final in their own country back in 1996 has been underwhelming. They have reached the quarter-finals twice, at Euro 2004 and Euro 2012. It has been disappointing for fans who expect so much. At Euro 2016 they suffered one of their greatest humiliations when Iceland came from 1-0 down to beat them 2-1 in the last 16. Their best performance came in Italy in 1968 when the then world champions finished third after defeating Russia in a play-off.   




Excellent. Only a limited number of fans will be allowed inside stadiums due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But having that backing from supporters will boost their chances of success considerably. England have always performed well on home soil. They came from behind to beat Belgium, who many tipsters fancy to prevail at Euro 2020, 2-1 at Wembley in the Nations League in October. They have a potent blend of youth and experience in every area of the park and strength in depth which will serve them well if they progress to the latter stages and pick up injuries or suspensions.