Euro 2020: ‘England are going to find out how much Scotland have learned’ – the pundits’ verdict

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Football’s oldest rivalry resumes at Wembley on Friday, with Euro 2020 points at stake.

England and Scotland will meet for the 115th time since 1872, but who will come out on top in their crunch Group D encounter?

We asked four BBC pundits with a foot in either camp for their verdict.

Former England internationals Martin Keown and Chris Waddle discuss things from an English perspective, while ex-Scotland stars Pat Nevin and Darren Fletcher give the Scottish view.

‘A different test for England’s centre-backs’

Martin Keown: Scotland are capable of playing good football but they didn’t set up to do that against the Czech Republic. They were very direct.

I was quite shocked and surprised how often Scotland went long in that game. Especially in the first half, every time the keeper David Marshall got it, he launched it.

If they adopt that style again, it will be a different test for our centre-backs, and for Declan Rice in front of them, because it will be a throwback – more akin to the kind of game England manager Gareth Southgate might have faced as a player at club level rather than international level.

Scotland’s biggest threat is Andrew Robertson going down the left-hand side. He created six chances in Monday’s game on his own, and he is very dangerous, but they don’t have the same down the right and it makes them a little bit one-dimensional.

They have to hope that Kieran Tierney is fit because he and Robertson take it in turns to charge forward down that flank. I watched them in their 2-2 friendly draw with the Netherlands at the start of the month and it was almost as if they were exchanging a relay baton.

But one of the mistakes they made against the Czechs was that they were too physical. The two Czech centre-halves were eating up a lot of those long balls, and Scotland did not show much quality or composure in the final third.

I was surprised that Scotland manager Steve Clarke went with players who had helped them qualify – in Adams they have got a Premier League quality centre-forward. He should have started that game and I expect he will be in their team on on Friday.

The Scotland team that started their 2-0 defeat by the Czech Republic

Clarke said afterwards that this tournament is a learning experience for them – well, we are going to find out how much they have learned from their opener.

From England’s point of view, I thought we played especially well against Croatia. I really liked our play down the left, and the relationship between Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling.

It worked much better on that side than it did on the right. Our goal was probably the first time we threatened on that side – we got Kalvin Phillips away and, with Phil Foden coming towards the ball, it dragged the full-back away and left Phillips with space to run into.

We didn’t quite get that side of the team to click apart from that moment, and that is one of the areas where Gareth will want us to improve, and be as fluid as we were on the left.

I don’t see him making many changes from the Croatia game – I think he will be loyal to the players who played in that one. Yes, he will want to get Harry Maguire back into the side but there is no need to rush him – Tyrone Mings dealt with everything so well in the first match.

When you play Scotland – I did it in the Euro 2000 play-off first leg – you know a lot about their players, especially the ones from the Premier League. There won’t be many surprises for them.

There is no doubt the Scottish will want to put England’s noses out of joint, because they are the under-dog. If England can cope with that, they will win.

‘Adams has to start for Scotland’

Pat Nevin: My message to England is that you won’t get it easy. Realistically, player for player they are better than us. We will battle for everything, but we are going to need a bit of luck to get something from the game.

It would certainly help Scotland if Tierney is fit and can play on the left of our three-man defence, so he can combine down that flank with Robertson.

It took a long time for Clarke to find a way to get them both in the team and working well together – one overlaps the other, and Tierney can actually end up further forward.

Tierney improves the team in other ways too. He is so good on the ball and can bring it out of defence better than Scotland’s other centre-backs. Defensively he is very strong too. His reading of the game is brilliant.

The left side will be an important battle but I don’t think England will fear us even if Tierney is fit. They have got so much quality themselves.

Elsewhere there have been some calls to get Billy Gilmour into our midfield. He is very good at holding the ball and keeping possession, which will be important because we might not have much of it, but I still think we are strong there anyway. It’s going to be hard to fit him in.

The area that actually concerns me more in the Scotland team is at centre-back, because of the quality England have up front.

As far as our attack goes, Adams has to start. I would have picked him for the first game as well. Technically, he is the best centre-forward we have got with his link-up play, his movement and how he holds up the ball.

For me, you get Adams in and pick what else you play around him. That could be Lyndon Dykes up there with him, or two players playing off him – there are plenty of options for Clarke. He could go with a 3-4-2-1 or 3-5-2 formation and still keep it pretty tight in midfield.

That’s what he will be aiming for, anyway – we want to get at England, but to get anything from the game we will have to deal with their threat too.

‘England will have to play badly to lose’

Graphic showing England's starting XI v Croatia
The England team that started against Croatia

Chris Waddle: I don’t think Southgate will make any special plans for Scotland – I can’t see him changing the team from the win over Croatia to be honest.

If certain people hadn’t performed, the likes of Kieran Trippier, Kalvin Phillips and Raheem Sterling, then we would be talking about Ben Chilwell, Jordan Henderson and Jack Grealish coming in.

But I can’t see that at all now, or England changing their system. We didn’t see one bad performance against Croatia.

It’s a big occasion every time we play Scotland because of the rivalry, but the England players have to forget that and focus on their tactics, and the way they play.

We want to play good football and get at teams and, for all the good work Clarke has done, I think we saw against the Czech Republic that the Scots are vulnerable at the back.

We have to respect them, sure, but we should beat them – especially at Wembley. If you go through their team and ask who would get in the England side then you could say Robertson at left-back. At a push, Scott McTominay would be in the squad – but that’s it.

That’s how superior England are. Individually the Scots are not bad players and I’m certainly not dismissing their threat as a team and what they are like as a unit.

But we have got a much better squad and, if we play well and play the way we can, it won’t matter what Scotland try to do from set-pieces or on the counter-attack – we will break them down, and we will win the game.

We will have to play badly to lose, it’s as simple as that.

‘Scotland will believe they can win’

Darren Fletcher: Monday’s defeat by the Czech Republic was bitterly disappointing for Scotland.

The anticipation, the build-up, the excitement, everyone was saying that game was a must-win and we couldn’t lose it – but we did lose it.

It is going to be very difficult to pick ourselves up and get something against England, but this team are capable of it. This team is not going to give in, they are going to go to Wembley and believe they can win the game.

Scotland have been written off before and we have come back. I think we have got to remember how we got here, we were hard to beat, we were resilient. So I am not ruling us out against England, by any stretch of the imagination.

We have to get behind the team because we have got good enough players, and we have got a little bit of character about us. Now it is about going there and proving it.

There is no bigger game for a Scotsman than to go to Wembley and play against England, especially in a European Championship like this.

I know what this team is about and I know the character they have shown to get here. They will will do their country proud on Friday, I’m sure of that.

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