Our series of previews featuring the Southampton quartet set to represent their countries at EURO 2020 concludes with a look at Scottish duo Ché Adams and Stuart Armstrong…
Qualification was no mean feat for the Scots, who will take part in their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup thanks to a pair of penalty shoot-out victories in the play-offs.
Whilst Belgium and Russia ran away with Group I, the Nations League offered a second chance for the Tartan Army, who topped their section to earn a home semi-final with Israel and a trip to Serbia to decide their fate, with both ties going the distance as Scotland converted all 10 of their spot-kicks over the two games to advance.
Since then, they finished second behind Czech Republic in the 2020 Nations League campaign and are unbeaten in their first three World Cup qualifiers.
Scotland were victorious home and away against the Czechs in the autumn, and victory in their Group D opener at Hampden Park would give them a glorious chance to progress to the knockout stage of a major tournament for the first time ever.
That first match is key, with trickier tests against England and Croatia lying in wait, but this feels like a genuine opportunity for Steve Clarke’s side to make history.
Whilst sneaking through in third would guarantee facing a group winner in the last 16, if Scotland can finish second they will face the runners-up from Group E, which could mean a Saints showdown against Jan Bednarek’s Poland.
Monday 14th June
Scotland vs Czech Republic
BBC, 2pm BST
Friday 18th June
England vs Scotland
ITV, 8pm BST
Tuesday 22nd June
Croatia vs Scotland
ITV, 8pm BST
A long-serving defender at Chelsea, Clarke returned to the club where he spent 11 years as a player to coach the youth teams, before becoming assistant manager to José Mourinho, and later Gianfranco Zola and Kenny Dalglish at West Ham and Liverpool respectively.
His first job in management came relatively late, taking the reins at West Brom aged 48 in 2012, leading the Baggies to an eighth-place finish in the Premier League.
He later took charge of Reading and Kilmarnock, where he finished third and qualified for Europe, winning Manager of the Year in Scotland en route to taking the national team job in May 2019.
Whilst many Scottish onlookers have rued the fact that the team’s two star players, Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney, are left-backs, Clarke has found a way to make it work and make that flank a major strength of his team.
Elsewhere, Scott McTominay has excelled in both midfield and central defence, while John McGinn has 10 goals in his last 20 appearances for his country.
Adams has made a strong start to his international career, scoring twice since his debut in March, and will be pushing for a starting berth either alongside or instead of QPR’s Lyndon Dykes. Armstrong, despite a thoroughly impressive season at St Mary’s, will have to make an impact from the bench.