Paul Higham says John McGinn can find the net for Scotland as they begin their Euro 2020 campaign against the Czech Republic…
Scotland v Czech Republic
Monday 14 June, 14:00
Live on BBC One
Scotland back in the big time
After 23 years in the wilderness, Scotland finally make their return to a major football tournament on Monday with Steve Clarke insisting his side are not here just to make up the numbers.
It’s been a long, tortuous road back for the Scots, including drawing with the Faroe Islands and losing to Kazakhstan, but even as rank outsiders they’re delighted to be back.
And they’re not without a chance, but if they want to make the most of it by getting through the group stage at a major tournament for the first time at the 11th attempt then they’ll have to start well against the Czech Republic.
On paper at least, these two should be vying for third spot so, with a home crowd behind them and three straight wins against the Czechs heading into this game, Scotland have every right to feel confident.
The Scots are the 11/10 outsiders to qualify from the group, but with four of the best third-placed sides going through this offers up a great chance. Despite this being the first game, this could already be a qualifying decider.
Czechs steeped in Euros history
Czechoslovakia won this event in 1976 when they made history by winning the Euros on penalties with Antonin Panenka making history with the dinked spot-kick that now bears his name. As the Czech Republic they were beaten in the Euro 96 final by Germany’s golden goal.
This will be their 10th European Championship all told and a seventh on the spin, but they’ve not been great at major tournaments since that 1996 final, making it out of the group stages just twice out of six attempts.
They’re without a win in four (D1 L3) against the Scots, although Jaroslav Silhavy had to put out a B or even C team for one of those when Covid-19 forced his first-team into isolation.
They enjoyed that surprise victory over England in qualifying for this, and now they’ll be looking for payback against the Scots with some even fancying them to cause Croatia a problem for second spot in the group.
Hard to split them in the match odds
The Czech Republic are ever-so-slight favourites at 2.757/4 against the 2.915/8 show for Scotland – despite the Scots being pretty strong at Hampden Park and them coming into this game riding an eight-game unbeaten run on home soil.
A draw, which would not suit either team given the fixtures ahead, is 3.02/1 but it is a bit more likely given this is their first game of the tournament.
In their warm-ups Scotland produced a pretty positive performance in their 2-2 draw with the Netherlands despite not being at full strength, while the Czechs were beaten 4-0 by Italy in what was their fourth defeat in five away games.
For in-play bettors, the side scoring first in this contest has won in 12 of their last 14 meetings, and Scotland look the more likely given they’ve bagged before half-time in the last four fixtures between the two.
Those results stretch back a while, but the Scots have also been fast starters of late as well, scoring inside 30 minutes in their last three games – which all makes their price of 3.613/5 to lead at the break an enticing prospect.
They’re also 2.111/10 to score first as they have done in their last three games.
Schick and McGinn the men to watch
Czech striker Patrik Schick heads the anytime goalscorer betting at 3.412/5 after six goals in his last 10 internationals, but West Ham’s Tomas Soucek is a live outsider at 5.04/1 after his goal-scoring exploits for the Hammers this season.
He plays deeper for the Czechs but he bagged a hat-trick against Estonia in World Cup qualifying and will be a constant danger at set pieces for a team who scored seven of their 13 Euro 2020 qualifying goals from dead ball situations.
Even longer in the better is Aston Villa’s John McGinn, who scored seven and assisted two of Scotland’s 17 goals in Euro qualifying and has also scored three in three World Cup qualifiers.
He’s 6.05/1 to score anytime and 10.09/1 to provide an assist here. He’s Scotland’s class act in terms of creating and goal threat and that price is just too big to pass up.
For Bet Builder purposes McGinn is also worth looking at in the cards market after picking up 12 for Villa last season – including in all of his last five league games.
He’ll be involved in what should be a white-hot midfield battle in feisty and crucial encounter.
Source: BetFair Tips