Croatia vs Scotland
If Steve Clarke’s side can earn their first win of the tournament at Hampden, they will progress to the round of 16 – but opponents Croatia are in the same boat, and Luka Modric and friends were finalists at the World Cup three years ago. Ulp.
But hang on, maybe it’s not an ‘ulp’ situation after all; in truth, the modern-day Croatian team seems a long way from competing for the biggest trophies in world (or even European) football.
Scotland beat Croatia on each of the last two occasions the sides met, during World Cup qualifiers in 2013, so at least there’s some positive precedent to call on – and in fact, Croatia have never ever beaten Scotland (in a total of five matches). But unhappily, Scotland have never progressed beyond the group stage of a major tournament in their history. Ulp.
Adding to Scotland’s woes, Billy Gilmour will not be available for selection, with the young midfielder testing positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week. Gilmour was arguably the standout player for the Scots as they earned a goalless draw against England on Friday.
While Scotland are still looking for their first goal of the Euros, Croatia earned a draw against the Czech Republic thanks to a timely Ivan Perisic equaliser, after Patrik Schick’s penalty for the Czechs.
Can Scotland find the net here, then? If one of Clarke’s players can do the business on Tuesday, he could be getting Trainspotting-style namechecks a la Archie Gemmill for years to come. QPR forward Lyndon Dykes is ostensibly the likeliest source, but he’s gone six games without a goal for club and country, however – and earlier this season, went 21 games in all competitions without finding the net.
Scotland’s lack of a cutting edge is a concern, then. But factoring in that the side’s all-round game has been pretty decent, maybe this is one of those matches where the winning goal gets scrambled over the line, and sod the aesthetics.
Can Scotland nick it? Perhaps. The bookies make Croatia favourites at 59/50, while the Scots are 43/20 to take the win – but the mood in Scotland must be optimistic, and playing on home turf should help Clarke’s side. Still, with goals in short supply for both teams in this tournament, the better if slightly more downbeat option could be to back under 1.5 goals at 12/5…
Czech Republic vs England
Monday’s results in other groups mean that England have already qualified for the round of 16 – and if they beat the Czechs at Wembley, they’ll win Group D. Add in the fact that Gareth Southgate’s team is unbeaten in their first two games and yet to even concede a goal, and the national mood must be jubilant, right? Well…
The draw against Scotland has definitely inspired its fair share of doom and gloom around the Three Lions. There are other problems too, with Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell currently forced to self-isolate, after coming into close contact with Billy Gilmour.
But the real concerns for England seem to be focused on one particular player. Before the Scotland game, Harry Kane told reporters he didn’t believe he was “undroppable” for England. Kane’s performance during that match seemed designed to illustrate that theory – but regardless, manager and teammates alike are standing by the striker.
“He’s our most important player,” said Southgate on Monday, with Raheem Sterling adding “when we need him most, he’s going to score.”
Maybe. But in his last nine games in all competitions, Kane has only scored twice, an underwhelming run by his remarkable standards.
As others (including Sterling himself) have pointed out, better service might help, of course. So are England heading into this one with something to prove – or something to fear? The team have still conceded just a single goal in their last eight matches – but Patrik Schick may be hoping to test that defensive solidity.
Schick has three goals in two matches, one the goal of the tournament so far, and the Bayer Leverkusen striker could well fancy his chances on Tuesday. Poor form and all that, but if the choice comes between betting on Kane or Schick to find the net, the evidence so far suggests Schick’s your man.
And the result? Well, with England a little laboured so far, and both sides already through to the next round, a damp squib is not to be ruled out – the draw is a 29/10 shot. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic are a massive 8/1 to win. No England fan would want that – but in strictly betting terms, it might be worth considering, certainly if (forgive me) Schick happens…
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