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DO OR DIE: England face Scotland at Wembley in EURO 2020

 

The oldest rivalry in international football continues on Friday night as England and Scotland clash at Euro 2020 on Friday.

The long-awaited fixture takes on more significance, with England looking to build on a winning start to Group D over Croatia and Scotland aiming to bounce back after losing to the Czech Republic.

England can secure their place in the last 16 with victory over Scotland, and should the Czechs win their game against Croatia, the winners of next week's final group game will top the group.

For Scotland, a defeat would see their tournament end in the group stages once again and to do so at the hands of England would be devastating.

 

Wouldn't be here without Scotland win - England boss Southgate

 

Gareth Southgate knows beating Scotland got him the permanent gig as England manager – an opportunity he had regretted not pushing for sooner.

The 115th instalment of international football’s oldest rivalry will be the fifth Southgate has played or managed in, having started in the fixture twice and then managed two World Cup qualifiers.

The Paul Gascoigne-inspired 2-0 win at Euro 96 is the most memorable of those matches, but the 3-0 qualifying win against Scotland in November 2016 arguably had the biggest impact on the 50-year-old.

England Under-21s manager Southgate was parachuted in as temporary boss following Sam Allardyce’s ignominious exit and had overseen a 2-0 win against Malta and 0-0 draw in Slovenia before beating Scotland.

Asked if he would have been England boss had that 3-0 win not happened, he said: “I think it’s a really good point. I suspect if we hadn’t beaten Scotland, you’re right – you wouldn’t be speaking to me here.

“Also, I think that moment for Scotland was a difficult one. They were in the middle of a bad run of form and that fell quite kindly for us as a fixture.

“I felt we played well on the night but we were in the really early stages of getting the team playing in a way that resembled what we truly believed and what the consequence of more time coaching the team allowed to happen.”

Southgate secured a 2-2 friendly draw against Spain days after that win, with his four-game interim stint enough to be earn him a four-year deal.

The former defender had initially been reluctant to take the job when Roy Hodgson left after the Euro 2016 humiliation against Iceland but jumped at the chance when it came back up.

“I think what persuaded me was that I felt the players were willing to adapt to the approach that we had, to embrace the way we wanted to play and the way we wanted to work,” Southgate said.

“I think the win just allowed that to happen, really. It wasn’t the win that convinced me.

“It was the win that perhaps had other people say, ‘well, blimey, we’ve tried everything else, so we might as well give this bloke a go – he took the under-21s and go from there!’

“But on a personal level it was the case I knew by the time I got to that game it was a role I felt I wanted, even though I was never going to say that publicly.

“I knew at that point having worked with the players and having had a closer insight into the workings of the job it was something I wanted to go for in my life.

“I had kind of regretted by that point not having a go at it and would have never known what might have been possible and that’s not a good position to be in in your life.

“I think when we saw what happened with Christian Eriksen the other day (with his cardiac arrest) it’s just another reminder that you have got to go for things in life and give them the best possible shot.

“Then when you’re finished, at least you don’t have regrets for things that you didn’t have a go at or performances that were inhibited. We’ve got to go for it.”

If that first fixture against Scotland got him the England job, the second game helped shape it as the group showed immense character to snatch a 2-2 draw at the death in Glasgow.

“We learned a lot,” Southgate said of the June 2017 meeting. “I think for this team it was a moment where they didn’t panic when they went behind and that was very important.

“We felt like that had happened in the past. They showed themselves that they could come back from difficult situations in games and we’ve been able to do that in the past few years. That’s a strength.

“I think good teams win games late. They are capable of coming back from setbacks.

“It also taught me that sometimes you can go with experienced players and expect them to be able to handle those sorts of games – and actually it doesn’t always work out that way.

“So, you know, it’s probably one of the moments when I started to think about younger players coming in, who were a little bit more fearless perhaps and going a slightly different route.

“The atmosphere was as good as I’ve been involved in, there’s no doubt about that. But it was definitely, aside from that, an afternoon that taught us a lot.”

 

Scotland can't afford to lose England clash - McTominay

 

Scott McTominay admits Scotland cannot leave Wembley with anything less than a Euro 2020 point against England on Friday.The Scots’ return to a major finals for the first time in 23 years started with a 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic in their Group D opener at Hampden Park.

Steve Clarke’s side face Croatia in their final fixture in Glasgow next week and the Manchester United midfielder acknowledged how crucial a positive result against the Auld Enemy is if they are to retain hopes of qualifying out of the group.

He said: “Most definitely we are going there to win the game but most definitely don’t lose the game.

“That’s first and foremost. We have to get a result.

“It’s as simple as that. For us, that’s the sole focus of the group at the minute.

“We’ve had 24 hours after the (Czech) game to digest what happened and the mistakes that were made – that’s in front of goal and defending as well.

“I’m sure you’ll see a big reaction and players who are hungry to win the game and do it for everyone in Scotland.”

McTominay believes the return to fitness of defender Kieran Tierney, who missed the Czech defeat with a niggle, is a “big deal.”

He said: “We need him back. He’s a top player and an amazing character and someone we want back in the team.

“He’s someone we need and we rely on him a lot for what he brings to the squad.

“He’s a big personality and a great character within the group.

“I don’t know if he is playing or not, but it’s exciting to see him back training and being involved again.”

McTominay has not spoken to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson about the game but will visualise the proud Scot, who brought him to Old Trafford, at the side of the pitch urging Scotland on.

He said: “I’m sure he will be sat at home watching and wanting us to win and expecting us to win as well.

“I’ll have those thoughts in my head. I’ll imagine him being on the sidelines.”

McTominay is “excited” about playing against United team-mate Marcus Rashford while admitting he has not spoken to Old Trafford defender Luke Shaw about the game.

He said: “What he (Rashford) has done off the pitch has been nothing short of incredible.

“The way he has conducted himself on and off the football pitch has been an absolute breath of fresh air and for myself to play against him tomorrow will be exciting. I can’t wait for it.

“It will be a strange moment, obviously, having played together for so many years.

“Since the age of eight, going through the academy at Manchester United and to be playing against each other tomorrow night will be fun.”

As for Shaw, McTominay said: “We’ve not said one word. We’ll leave that until after the game.

“I’m sure I’ll see him then and it will be nice to see him but hopefully he won’t have a smile on his face.”

 

Five talking points ahead of England v Scotland

 

Taking the knee to stand as one

Scotland’s players will join England in taking the knee ahead of kick-off in a stance of solidarity against racism.

While the England squad have seen the gesture jeered by a minority of supporters of late, Scotland have been standing against racism before games.

Having initially said they would not take the knee, the visitors relented and it remains to be seen what the Wembley reaction will be to all 22 players dropping to a knee before kick-off.

Return of the Mag

England boss Gareth Southgate opted to name Harry Maguire in his 26-man squad despite the Manchester United defender carrying an ankle injury.

The centre-back sat out the two warm-up fixtures and the Euro 2020 opener against Croatia but declared himself fit to face Scotland.

It now remains to be seen if he will come straight back into the England side or whether Southgate keeps faith in the back line which kept the World Cup finalists at bay on Sunday.

Scotland wait on Tierney

Losing the Arsenal defender to what Steve Clarke described as a “niggle” was a major blow ahead of Monday’s Group D opener with the Czechs.

After years of fretting over how to fit the nation’s two world-class left-backs into the same team, it appeared Clarke had finally found a solution with Andy Robertson taking up a wing-back role and Tierney operating as a bold, over-lapping centre-back positioned to the left of a back three.

But without the former Celtic defender Scotland struggled to build from the back and a major rethink will be required if he is forced to sit out again at Wembley.

Kane to prove he is able

There is no doubting Harry Kane’s ability – the 2018 World Cup golden boot winner ended the last Premier League campaign leading both the goalscorer and assist charts.

But he was on the periphery of Sunday’s win over Croatia, hardly having a sniff of goal as he dropped deeper and deeper to get on the ball.

Kane has said he will do whatever it takes to help the team be successful but the England skipper will also be keen to get off the mark at the finals and has a good record of finding the back of the net against Scotland.

Youth or experience the dilemma for Clarke

The Scotland boss is conservative by nature but also loyal to the players who have helped steer his side this far. That is why he stuck by the likes of Stephen O’Donnell for Monday’s Hampden clash despite a clamour for Rangers youngster Nathan Patterson to start.

The Motherwell man outstrips the Ibrox teenager – who has made just 17 professional appearances – in experience but lacks the attacking creativity of his fresh-faced rival. Celtic winger James Forrest is also a contender for the right wing-back slot, while calls for Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour to get a chance also continued to grow after this week’s defeat.

Che Adams will feel he should be next in line to start up front after Lyndon Dykes passed up a golden chance to score at Hampden.


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