Caldwell to Caldwell: The Scottish brothers discuss Scotland's return to the big stage
Scotland never do things the easy way. After a 23-year gap between successfully qualifying for an international tournament, they needed a penalty shootout win against Serbia in the playoffs to book a place at the Euros. That win triggered memorable scenes in the dressing room as players danced awkwardly to Baccara's 1977 song "Yes Sir, I can Boogie" -- but speak to those near the Scotland squad and they're adamant they aren't there to make up the numbers. They'll be based in Middlesbrough for the Euros (the Czech Republic have their usual Edinburgh base, and Croatia are at St. Andrews) so they'll keep themselves away from the hype but will no doubt feel the public expectation. With matches against the Czech Republic and Croatia as well as a trip to Wembley to face England, Scotland will throw everything at Group D.
There's top-tier talent up and down the team. Manager Steve Clarke will likely line his side up in a formation that allows them to shoehorn two of their best players into the team: Arsenal's Kieran Tierney at centre-back, and captain Andrew Robertson in the left wing-back spot. Manchester United's Scott McTominay has been used as a makeshift centre-back, with Chelsea's Billy Gilmour, Celtic's Ryan Christie, Aston Villa's John McGinn and Southampton's Stuart Armstrong capable of running the midfield.
They'll need a good start and have a group of 15 or 16 players who can trouble the best in Europe. What could swing things in their favour is their team spirit. Don Hutchison won 27 caps for Scotland from 1999 to 2003, and he feels the togetherness is stronger than the Scotland teams of old. "I look at them now and think that's a dressing room I'd love to be part of," Hutchison told ESPN.
Scotland's prep has been disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak that saw seven players ruled out of their 2-2 draw against the Netherlands, and with Glasgow in lockdown, their opener against the Czech Republic could be played in front of empty stands at Hampden Park. That first game against Jaroslav Silhavy's high-pressing Czech Republic will set the tone. "It's a huge game for us," goalkeeper Craig Gordon told ESPN. "We really have to go in there and get off to the best possible start. It's a tough one, but especially at Hampden, hopefully with some fans in, I think it gives us a chance to get off to a great start."