So that’s it then.
When the Scottish national team next play a game of football it will be in the finals of a tournament for the first time in the best part of a quarter of a century.
A creditable draw with the Netherlands has been followed up with a stress-free victory against Luxembourg.
Eric Nicolson assesses the talking points from the last friendly and the selection dilemmas manager Steve Clarke has for the Euro 2020 Hampden Park opener against the Czech Republic.
A cut above
Lyndon Dykes was the game-changing Clarke ‘signing’ that was probably the difference between getting to the European Championships and yet another qualification near miss.
Che Adams is the recruit who elevates this team to another level and could take it to the knock-out rounds.
He is a class act.
Adams’ first touch is utterly reliable and his decision-making isn’t far off it.
It’s very rare to see the Southampton striker choose the wrong option – and on the odd occasion it looks like he might have, it’s actually because a team-mate isn’t on the same wavelength.
The good news is that Dykes can’t be put into that category.
GOAL! Luxembourg 0-1 Scotland
Che Adams opens the scoring for #SCO
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) June 6, 2021
There was instinctive chemistry with the winning goal and with the move that resulted in Luxembourg getting a man sent off.
This looks like a partnership worth persevering with and, given Ryan Christie’s average at best form in a Scotland shirt since his big night in Serbia and Ryan Fraser’s lack of game-time for Newcastle towards the end of the season, it would be the one I’d select for the opening match against the Czech Republic.
The third centre-back
This is arguably the position where there is greatest doubt.
Clarke will stick with David Marshall, I would imagine.
The midfield three which started against Luxembourg will be the midfield three which starts next Monday.
As explained above, Adams and Dykes makes more sense than Adams and Christie.
And, for all that Stephen O’Donnell is the team’s weakest link, he’ll be preferred to James Forrest and Nathan Patterson.
Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney are clearly going to be the left-back and left-sided centre-back as long as Scotland are in the championship and they are fit, leaving the two spots to the Arsenal man’s right.
Grant Hanley started all three of the last batch of World Cup qualifiers and I’d expect Clarke to pick him when it really matters again.
Declan Gallagher played against Luxembourg but the backline isn’t as balanced with the recent Aberdeen recruit and Hanley as it will be with Hanley and Jack Hendry.
There might be a case for the more conservative and physical trio at Wembley but not in match one. It’s not win or bust but it is Scotland’s best chance to get a victory and they may only need three points to get into the last-16.
Hendry has defensive flaws but his link-up play and front-foot mindset outweigh those deficiencies as far as the Czech fixture is concerned.
Being bold is Clarke’s best bet.
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish
That’s not strictly true, of course. Certainly not in group football.
Scotland winning their first game could be key to these Euros being an historic success or a tournament failure to add to ’74, ’78, ’82, ’86, ’90, ’92, ’96 and ’98.
But I definitely get the feeling that the team will have a different look to it by the time they play their last match.
And that’s not just because there will almost certainly be a couple of injuries along the way.
It’s because there is an inevitability to Billy Gilmour becoming a first-choice pick.
The Chelsea Champions League winner is a once in a generation talent – two generations in Scotland’s case, perhaps.
His run-out off the bench against Luxembourg was just as expected. He picked up the pace of the contest straight away, dictated the tempo, barely wasted a pass and never settled for a safe option when a more decisive one was open to him.
Billy Gilmour starts next week for @ScotlandNT 👏
— Charlie Adam (@Charlie26Adam) June 6, 2021
Clarke isn’t a gambler by nature and won’t drop Callum McGregor and replace him with Gilmour just yet.
Loyalty will soon be trumped by talent, though.
Gilmour is a footballer with an unstoppable momentum.
‘And we’ll really shake them up when we win…..’
OK, it’s not a World Cup but where should the football-supporting nation be with their pre-Euros emotions?
Ally McLeod-esque runaway optimism or ‘it always ends the same way’ defeatism?
On that front, the two friendlies have worked out perfectly.
Beating the Netherlands with a few fringe players in the starting line-up, followed up by a thrashing of Luxembourg would have taken the Tartan Army far too close to Ian Maxwell’s “anything is possible” viewpoint.
Scotland lead the Netherlands once again! 💥
Kevin Nisbet scores his first goal after a superb cross from Andy Robertson! 🎁
Watch live on Sky Sports Main Event! pic.twitter.com/OIpRqEQzh1
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) June 2, 2021
Clarke is much more comfortable playing down expectations than talking them up.
He’ll feel, with some justification, that his squad will go into the tournament with a perfect balance having been struck.
His system is bedded in, his main men are all playing very well and the next choice drop-off in most positions isn’t one to keep him up at night.
Clarke is a manager for whom the phrase ‘cautious optimism’ was made for. And he’s got a team which justifies that mantra.