STEVE Clarke will urge his Scotland players to take full advantage of their first tournament appearance in 23 years before they take to the field in their Euro 2020 opener today – by securing a place in the last 16.

The whole country is set to be come to a standstill at two o’clock this afternoon when the national team take on the Czech Republic in their first Group D match at Hampden.

Scotland have not been involved in either a European Championship or a World Cup since France ’98 and the entire population is excited at the prospect.

Scotland have never made it through to the knockout rounds - but Clarke is determined for Andy Robertson and his compatriots to capitalise fully on the opportunity they have and will make that clear to them in his pre-match team talk before kick-off.

“It’s been a long wait,” he said. “We’ve all waited a long, long time for this moment. So let’s make the most of it. That’ll be the message.

“I’ll tell them to go and enjoy yourself, enjoy the game. Normally when players are relaxed they play better. We try to keep them calm and keep them relaxed. I’ll tell them to go and enjoy the moment.

“I think when you qualify for the first time in 23 years, you probably feel a bit less pressure. We’ve done well to be in the tournament and we’re going to give our all in every game and make the next step to the knockout stages.

“I’ve been around the block a few times myself - having been involved in some big matches - so the players will be properly prepared. That’s physically, mentally and tactically. That’s our job. If big players turn up on the big occasions, you always have a chance.”

Clarke will have to tell several of the 26 players who he selected for the Euro 2020 finals that they will not be in his 23-man match day squad – but he will stress to the three who he leaves out that they are still very much involved in Scotland’s bid to go through. 

“As you would expect it’s a difficult selection process,” he said. “We have 26 players all doing their best in training. A lot of them have done well for me before in international games. Difficult decisions, but that’s what I’m paid to do.

“The message to those lads is that they’re still part of the group and still involved. If they’re here, if they’re in the 26, then they’re very much involved in Scotland’s first tournament in 23 years. Think about the number of players over that time who missed out on a tournament so the 26 are very much involved.”