Scotland begin their first campaign at an international tournament in the 21st century by hosting the Czech Republic at Hampden Park on Monday afternoon.
It’s been a long 23 year wait for The Tartan Army, whose path to the tournament was anything but smooth – needing to play-off penalty shoot-outs against Israel and Serbia.
Steve Clarke’s side are now unbeaten in their last five games, losing just twice in their last fifteen, and will definitely fancy their chances of making it out of the group stages.
The first obstacle they need to navigate though, is Tomas Soucek and his Czech Republic teammates. The 6’4 West Ham United behemoth marshals their midfield alongside 23-year-old Spartak Moscow midfielder Alex Kral, who had reportedly agreed a deal with The Hammers earlier this year.
The two sides will be familiar with each other at least, given they faced one another in the Nations League as recently as October 2020, with the Scots coming out on top in both fixtures – though the away game was played against a thoroughly depleted squad of local players.
It comes as no surprise, though, that the bookies have the home side as slight favourites in the betting. The Scots are a best price 7/4, whilst the visitors are around 2/1 to spring an ‘upset’.
The Man in the Middle
The game at Hampden Park will be under the control of German official Daniel Siebert. He has shown 139 yellows in 35 games so far this season, at an average of 3.97 per game, but has only dished out two reds – and none in 2021.
The Betbuilder Selections
First things first, I like both teams to score in this game. We saw yesterday in the Group C games that sides are willing to commit players forward for goals, in the knowledge that 3 points could be enough for qualification. With England already on 3 points both of these sides will want to get points on the board, and Both Teams to Score at plus money looks generous.
When researching this game I also came across something that surprised me a little. The Czech Republic commit A LOT of fouls, but very rarely get many cards. Over the course of the competitive internationals since the 2018 World Cup they’ve committed 16.2 fouls per game, but only received 1.47 bookings per game. On the other hand, Scotland have committed just 12.2 fouls per game but received a shocking 2.2 yellows per game.
With that in mind, I’ll be having a run at a stat-based BetBuilder. Both Teams to Score and Scotland Over 1 Card at 13/5 with bet365.
I’ve also been intrigued by Steve Clarke’s usage of John McGinn in that Scottish midfield.
He plays a slightly more advanced role than he does for club side Aston Villa, and Scotland seem to reap the rewards of it. He’s scored 10 goals in the last 16 starts he’s made for the national side, and odds of 11/2 here are worth considering.
In true McGinn fashion though; he’s been booked in six of his 26 international starts and picked up cards in each of the last five games of the Premier League season.
The score/carded double is worth a small play at 26/1.