THE pressure is well and truly on Steve Clarke and his Scotland players heading into their second Euro 2024 match against Switzerland in the RheinEnergieStadion here in Cologne this evening after their mauling by tournament hosts Germany last week.

They have been lacerated by their own supporters, former internationalists and media commentators in the wake of their inept and gutless showing in the Allianz Arena in Munich on Friday night and have to produce a vastly-improved performance to silence their detractors and keep their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds alive.

If they slump to another loss to opponents who romped to a comfortable 3-1 triumph over Hungary on Saturday afternoon then their prospects of making it through to the last 16 of a major finals for the first time in their history will evaporate. 

Yet, a result, even a draw, would change everything. They can go from being zeroes to heroes in the space of 90 minutes in North Rhine-Westphalia if they rediscover the form they showed in their qualifying matches against Cyprus, Spain, Norway and Georgia last year. They can still revive their chances of achieving something which none of their predecessors ever accomplished.    

READ MOREScotland manager issues Billy Gilmour warning ahead of Swiss game

But how do Scotland turn things around against rivals who can field Manuel Akanji, Ricardo Rodriguez, Xherdan Shaqiri, Yann Sommer and Granit Xhaka and whose squad is packed full of individuals who play for clubs at the highest level in major footballing nations like England, France, Germany and Italy?

Does Clarke, who lost Ben Doaks, Lyndon Dykes, Lewis Ferguson, Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson to injury in the build-up to Euro 2024, have the quality needed to get the better of a team which has reached the knockout rounds of the last five World Cups?

Are Che Adams, Stuart Armstrong, Grant Hanley, Ryan Jack, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay and John McGinn, mainstays of the national team for years now, fully fit? 

The former Newcastle United, Chelsea, Liverpool assistant has had much to ponder during training in Garmisch-Partenkirchen just a few miles from the Austrian border in recent days as the Switzerland encounter has drawn closer. Does he give the men who failed so spectacularly the chance to redeem themselves? Does he hand their understudies an opportunity? Does he switch his system?

Here are five things which Clarke and Scotland could try to get the result they need against Switzerland to stay in Euro 2024.

Keep it simple

Clarke accepted some personal responsibility for the lamentable display in the Allianz Arena when he spoke to the media here on Sunday. He revealed that he felt one of the main reasons for the poor showing was that he had given his charges too much information in the days leading up to the game. He sensed they were unsure what they should be doing both in and out of possession.

The ex-Kilmarnock manager is sure to have simplified his instructions greatly ahead of the Switzerland match. Hopefully that will see an improvement at the back, in midfield and up front tonight. Scotland have some technically gifted and mentally strong footballers who can go toe to toe with anyone in the global game when they are in peak condition. But they need clarity to function at their best.

READ MORESwitzerland boss Yakin expects strong Scotland as Akanji hails McGinn

Particularly given the players who are missing. Anthony Ralston of Celtic has only been given the nod at right wing back because Hickey and Patterson are unavailable. He has played, and played well, for his country on several occasions in the past. He also started in the warm-up friendly against Finland at Hampden earlier this month.

However, he is far from an established internationalist and is not entirely au fait with the system. Perhaps the reason that he struggled so badly against Florian Wirtz in Bavaria was because he was unsure where he should be positioned with and without the ball. He will benefit from knowing exactly what is expected of him and so will all of his compatriots.

Stay calm

It does not really matter what gameplan Clarke devises if his players freeze when a match kicks off. That is exactly what happened on Friday evening.

(Image: PA) The home favourites launched an attack in just the second  minute and their supporters in the 65,000-strong crowd raised the roof. Angus Gunn saved the Wirtz shot before the referee ruled the winger had been offside when Antonio Rudiger played him through.

But that moment seemed to startle the Scots. They lacked composure on the ball, shelled it upfield at every available opportunity and allowed their opponents to come at them in numbers again and again. They were fortunate to only concede five.   

They looked a little calmer after Hanley had replaced Che Adams, who was taken off because Ryan Porteous had been red carded for a foul on Ilkay Gundogan in added-on time at the end of the first-half, and taken over in the middle of the three man backline.

Having the vastly-experienced Norwich City man organising things should help against Switzerland. He certainly spoke of the need to keep cool heads when he chatted to reporters earlier this week.

“From my experience, if you tak a gung ho approach to the game then that is normally when things go wrong,” he said. “I think it is important that we don’t make it bigger than it is. It is a game of football at the end of the day.

READ MOREAndy Robertson disagrees with 'information overload' Scotland theory

“We know exactly what we need to do to be able to perform and give ourselves a better chance of getting a result. Keep calm, remember the principles, remember what has helped us be successful in the past. Like I say, I think the message would be to learn from where we went wrong, stay calm and make sure we put it right.”

He has been in this position before at Euro 2020 and helped Scotland to recover from a disappointing opening game. 

Start Billy Gilmour

With Billy Gilmour, McGregor, McTominay, McGinn and Ryan Chistie all available for selection, one key man was always going to miss out against Germany. But when it emerged that Gilmour was the one who had been left on the bench eyebrows were raised among supporters. The Brighton midfielder, after all, had  been immense in the 0-0 draw with England at Wembley three years earlier.

He dovetailed beautifully with McGregor on that memorable evening and has since performed well alongside the Celtic captain on numerous occasions. The pair enable the national team to win and control possession. 

It is doubtful that Scotland would have avoided the defeat they suffered if the 23-year-old had started last week. Every player automatically becomes 10 times better than he actually is. But the margin of defeat might not have been so great and the paucity of the performance so poor if he had been on the park. He has to start against Switzerland.

(Image: PA) Former Scotland striker Kenny Miller summed up the feelings of many when he spoke to Ladbrokes 1-2-Free yesterday. “Personally I'd have played Billy,” he said. “Billy would've given us that option in the middle, when we had the ball. He'd have given us that calm head, and bravery to get on the ball and make the passes, and maybe just take the sting out of the game a little.” 

Drop a big name

So who does Clarke leave out if he brings Gilmour in? He clearly thought that having the former rangers kid in the same side as McGregor, McGinn and McTominay would have left him short in pace and creativity in and around the final third and so he fielded Christie just off Adams.

READ MOREForrest to replace Ralston? Writers' Scotland line-ups

But the Bournemouth playmaker, who has been used in a deep-lying role by Andoni Iraola at the Vitality Stadium, was utterly ineffectual. That had a lot to do with the non-existent service which he received from those behind him. McTominay, McGinn and McGregor were far from their best. No member of that quartet can have any complaints if they are dropped this evening.

Change the formation

Clarke has helped his team bounce back from sore defeats in the past and he can do so again if he takes the same sort of radical action as he did before. Losing the Qatar 2022 play-off semi-final to Ukraine at Hampden and then being thrashed by the Republic of Ireland in Dublin in the Nations League was an alarming way to end the 2021/22 season.

But the Scotland manager went away, analysed what had happened and promptly changed from the 3-4-2-1 formation which he had been relying on to a 4-2-3-1. Wins over Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland were promptly recorded and promotion to the A League achieved. Doing something similar would not be the worst move.

The fact that Robertson was injured allowed Clarke to dispense with his three man defence and wing backs two years ago. But the Liverpool left-back has played alongside Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney in a four man rearguard before. A more conventional set-up would possibly be more to the liking of Ralston too.

Having McGregor and Gilmour stationed just ahead of the four man defence would perhaps reduce the number of scoring opportunities that Switzerland create. Staying in the game, remaining on level terms, keeping their fans behind them, are vital in this Group A outing. The worst thing they can do is concede early goals like they did on Friday.