Czech Game Could be Baptism by Fire for Scotland’s Billy Gilmour. Scotland boss Steve Clarke stated that he had “selection headaches all over the pitch” ahead of their Euro 2020 opening against Czech Republic on Monday, and one player who is sure to be on his mind is 20-year-old Billy Gilmour.
Clarke has taken his team to their first major tournament in 23 years, and their Euro 2020 Group D campaign begins with possibly the most significant match of their lives.
With games against England and World Cup finalists Croatia on the horizon, a defeat by the Czechs at Hampden Park in Glasgow would put Scotland in a difficult position to advance to the knockout stages.
With that in mind, Clarke may be tempted to infuse some more motivation into a team that has proven it can compete with anyone in terms of guts and tenacity.
Gilmour, a Chelsea youth who has showed glimpses of promise in his few outings for the club and briefly lit up Scotland’s warm-up friendly triumph over Luxembourg last Sunday, might give that spark. He’s only appeared in a few first-team games, but many are expecting great things from the midfielder, who enters the tournament with a Champions League winner’s medal in his pocket thanks to Chelsea’s victory. In Group D, the 19-year-old will face several of his Blues teammates, including Reece James, Mason Mount, and Ben Chilwell. But he won’t be expecting it to be easy – Chelsea’s Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic joked that he’ll urge his teammates to kick Gilmour. Talk about a baptism through fire.
With Manchester United’s Scott McTominay and Aston Villa’s John McGinn — Scotland’s main goal threat – looking like sure starts, Gilmour will be fighting for a last position in a likely central midfield three.
He has clearly piqued the interest of England’s Phil Foden, another exceptionally bright kid. “Billy Gilmour is a fantastic player. He’s still young and has a lot to learn. But I’ve played against him a few times and every time I’ve been impressed; he’s obviously going to be a great player in the future and a great player for Scotland,” Foden stated.
Clarke will have to determine if Gilmour is ready to be thrown in at the deep end after making his full debut in a cameo against the Netherlands earlier this month.
Scotland and the Czech Republic are familiar with each other, having met twice in the Nations League last year, with the Scots winning both games.
The Czechs were denied of their regular team in the first encounter owing to a coronavirus epidemic, while Covid-19 also deprived them of their manager, Jaroslav Silhavy, in the second encounter.
The Czech team does not have any notable players like the last one to compete in the Euros on British soil. That Czech squad, which included Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky, played in the first Euro final decided by a golden goal, losing to Germany 2-1 in 1996.
The current squad does, however, have plenty of top-level experience, including West Ham United midfielder Tomás Soucek, who was nominated for Premier League player of the season, and Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick, who has 11 goals in 26 international appearances. While they were thrashed 4-0 by Italy in a warm-up game at the start of the month, they came back to defeat Albania 3-1 in their following encounter.
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