Scotland returns to the international stage for the first time in more than two decades at Euro 2020 on Monday as Spain, hit by Covid, prepares to launch its bid for a record fourth continental crown.
The Scots, absent from a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, face the Czech Republic in front of 12,000 fans at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
Day four action then moves to St Petersburg, where Robert Lewandoski’s Poland takes on Slovakia before a new look from Spain takes on Sweden in Seville without captain Sergio Busquets who was tested positive for the coronavirus.
Scottish fans are sure to savor the opportunity at Hampden, with their side finally back at the top of the table.
“I hope this inspires a nation, I hope we can make them happy. You can already feel a real buzz across the country, ”said captain Andy Robertson.
“A lot of kids, teens and even young people in their twenties have never seen us in a major tournament,” said left-back Liverpool, who was four when Scotland played in the World Cup 1998.
# photo1The Czechs’ preparations for the Group D game were overshadowed by the racism ban that excluded defender Ondrej Kudela from the tournament.
The Slavia Prague player has been suspended for 10 games for abusing Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara during a Europa League visit to Scotland in March.
“I don’t believe he said anything racist to him, there was no evidence, but a lot of people on the islands (in UK) condemned him and he received a harsh sentence,” said Czech Tomas Soucek, who plays in England for Ham de l’Ouest.
The Scots jump into battle after their neighbors and Group D rivals England got their Euro campaign off to a good start with a 1-0 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
Raheem Sterling scored in a sunny Wembley as Gareth Southgate’s England won their first game of a European Championship final for the first time in the 10th attempt.
“I always said if I played Wembley in a major tournament I would score. I had to score in my backyard and I was delighted to do so, ”he said.
# photo2 England, who are looking to end a 55-year wait for a major trophy, will play all three group matches at their London home. If they are at the top of Group D, they will also play there in the round of 16, while London will also host the two semi-finals as well as the final on July 11.
Also on Sunday, the Netherlands, back in a major tournament for the first time since 2014, beat Ukraine 3-2 in a thrilling Group C encounter in Amsterdam.
– Eriksen ‘stable, bon’ –
Dutch captain Georginio Wijnaldum gave the hosts the lead early in the second half before Wout Weghorst doubled his lead.
Ukraine equalized with two quick goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk, but a header from Denzel Dumfries five minutes from time gave Frank de Boer a win.
North Macedonia lost 3-1 to Austria in their first game at this level as an independent nation in Bucharest, despite captain Goran Pandev’s equalizer, 37.
Action on the pitch for the pan-European tournament – delayed for a year by the coronavirus pandemic – continues with Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen still in hospital after Saturday’s shocking collapse.
The 29-year-old’s state of health was described as “stable” and “good” by the Danish Football Union 48 hours after his cardiac arrest while playing for his country against Finland in Copenhagen.
His team-mate Kasper Schmeichel questioned the decision the team faced about whether to resume the game after Eriksen’s medical emergency in the middle of the game. When the game resumed, Denmark lost 1-0.
“We have been placed in a position which I personally think we should not have been placed,” said the Leicester City goalkeeper.
Schmeichel said he would have liked someone older to step in and say “now is not the time to make this decision, and maybe we should wait until the next day to decide”.
“What happened has happened, and I hope they will learn from it,” Schmeichel said, praising what he considered to be the real “heroes” of the game, the medics.
The players were able to speak to Eriksen via a video call on Sunday.
“He said in his own way that we had to wait for Thursday’s game (against Belgium). It meant a lot, ”said midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who missed a penalty against Finland after the restart.
World Cup champions France are favorites to win the continental crown and begin their campaign against Germany in Munich on Tuesday, while defending champions Portugal face Hungary in the other group game. F.
© 2021 AFP