Scotland’s return to tournament football is less than 48 hours away.
After 23 years in the wilderness, expectation levels are beginning to rise ahead of the big kick-off against the Czech Republic at Hampden.
Of Scotland’s three group games, this one looks the most winnable on paper – and Steve Clarke has some thinking to do before he names his team.
He’s still got time to make a few tweaks.
But our writers have already come up with their favoured starting XIs – and there are plenty of talking points.
Even though I see all Stephen O’Donnell’s limitations as at right-back, it would be a risk too far to throw Nathan Patterson in the deep end.Selecting Billy Gilmour would be no such gamble.
He’s already a better player than Callum McGregor, who is living off former glories.
Jack Hendry gives a ball-playing balance to the back-three and Craig Gordon’s ingrained reluctance to take so much as one step off his line makes David Marshall my goalkeeper of choice.
I was torn between Ryan Fraser and Lyndon Dykes as a partner for Che Adams but the latter is more game-ready and will soften up the Czech Republic defence for the former to make an impact in the last half-hour.
If we are to have any chance of progressing out of the group, we must take the game to the Czechs.
With that in mind, two up top is a must, particularly after Dykes and Adams’ dove-tailing performance Luxembourg.
In midfield, McTominay can sit, and drop into defence when required, while McGinn and Armstrong maraud forward.
At the back, Marshall is still the man in possession of the gloves for me and, much like O’Donnell, has always served Scotland well.
Tierney and Robertson will be crucial over and under-lapping on the left flank and I liked the look of the Hendry-Cooper partnership against Holland.
Sentimentality from Serbia aside, Craig Gordon is a better goalkeeper than David Marshall and is capable of making match-winning saves which defy belief.
We should be aiming to dominate possession and create chances against the Czechs, so the ball-playing ability of Jack Hendry and Billy Gilmour could be pivotal. I’d also have the precocious Nathan Patterson marauding down the right in a heartbeat.
Despite Kevin Nisbet’s goal against the Netherlands, Lyndon Dykes is the man to batter the opposition and allow Ché Adams to do the damage. Nisbet is an ideal impact sub when chasing a goal.
Steve Clarke should be bold and brave against the Czech Republic. This is a winnable tie.
David Marshall will forever be a national icon for his penalty saves that got us to the Euros but Craig Gordon is a better keeper.
In defence, we can afford to gamble on playing ball-playing centre backs Kieran Tierney and Jack Hendry if we have the security of ‘the enforcer’ Scott McTominay in a midfield holding role.
Billy Gilmour’s creative flair should earn him a start ahead of Callum McGregor while a two-pronged attack of Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes can get us goals.
If Scotland don’t have a go against the Czechs, I think they’ll end up regretting it.
Andy Robertson in the left wing back role and Kieran Tierney on the left of a back three is a no-brainer. For me, Liam Cooper, who does the business week-in, week-out for Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United should get the nod in the centre, while Jack Hendry’s comfort on the ball makes him my right-sided centre back.
Nathan Patterson gives the side an attacking dimension Stephen O’Donnell does not, so he gets my shout on the right.
McTominay and McGinn are sure picks for me – and Stuart Armstrong provides the midfield craft to accompany their graft.
Up top, it’s a partnership, with Kevin Nisbet my choice to accompany Che Adams. I just can’t get my head round how a Dykes-Adams partnership works against a good side. Nisbet is less physical, but he’s a finisher. With Robertson and Patterson marauding up the flanks, he’s the man I want in the middle.