Scotland clash at Euro 2020 is one that should be savoured by England fans

England and Scotland face off on Friday to continue the world's oldest international fixture and it is truly an occasion that should be savoured.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 3:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 3:12 pm

International tournaments are always special occasions - you have to wait four years for each, you have the brief feeling of hope before a different, well-tipped, nation dispatches one of the dark horses in a group game and that optimism quickly fades.

England meanwhile will generally get the job done - just about - all the while looking either a little unconvincing, or just a bit dull.

It's quite a flash in the pan moment where you may only see a couple of Three Lions matches in amongst the ever-growing number of games before they crash out of the contest and we start the next cycle into the next tournament.

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Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring England's winning goal against Croatia.
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring England's winning goal against Croatia.

Add on this time that we've had to wait an extra year for the tournament due to a global pandemic and there is even more excitement leading into Euro 2020, turned 2021.

International football has been watered down, there is no escaping that. There are more games that are getting less and less competitive. This is the largest Euros in history and get any sort of result in the group stages and you will do well not to reach the knockout rounds - only two of the eight third placed teams will be heading home.

That opens the door for smaller footballing nations, less successful or lesser funded, to have their moments in the spotlight. It's fantastic to see the elation it brings to them but there is also a sense of same old, same old about many nations that are at a similar standard. If you've played one from a middling sort of group, you've almost played them all.

That absolutely will not be the case come 8pm on Friday.

The world's oldest international fixture, first played in 1924, gets another run out but it's at a major tournament. It's always a huge occasion but the stakes are now higher.

The Auld Enemy were paired in the World Cup qualifying and whilst that made for two feisty contests, particularly the topsy-turvy tie at Hampden Park, neither's qualifying campaigns came down to six points, rather the 30 on offer.

But especially given the context of Scotland's first game in this tournament, a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic, this one is crucial.

Another defeat could spell the end of the hopes the Scots have of progressing, especially should Croatia beat the Czechs.

England's win over Croatia has them sitting comfortably for the time being, but should the Scots pull of an upset at Wembley, it throws the group wide open.

This is also Scotland's first international tournament in 23 years, so they're making the most of it. Unfortunately for them, it started with goalkeeping hero of the qualifying play-off penalty shoot-out David Marshall being beaten from some 50 yards.

It's also not often, any more, that the two home nations meet. For example, since last playing Scotland, England have played against fellow group members Croatia four times in the last three years.

It is an occasion that brings the two sides together and one that should be savoured as many different factors had to all come together to make it happen.

Despite how at odds the two nations can be, there is also unity that needs highlighting.

Both countries have endured lockdowns and the huge shift in what normal life is. Both sets of fans would surely, under normal circumstances, flock to Wembley, tickets or not, to soak up the atmosphere and add to it.

But there will be some fans there, 3,000 of the Tartan Army have tickets. Advice is not to travel if you don't have a ticket but up to 20,000 are expected to head to the capital.

It is a shame that there can't be the full 90,000 under the Wembley arch but they will make their presence known and some is better than none.

I had a ticket for England's final group game against the Czech Republic but wasn't fortunate enough to get through the ballot with reduced capacity.

From a personal view too, I think it's good that the Scots are showing solidarity and taking the knee with the English players. Whatever your view or players kneeling as they ask for equality and abuse to stop, it's good that at a time of so much animosity and unrest, two old foes can make a show of togetherness.

Hopefully it lives up to the billing, an explosive encounter with both sides going all out to win it, rather than an edgy affair with pride as stake.

It could well encapsulate all we've hoped the Euros would be as we've counted down the days for them to begin.