Scotland Secure Draw at Wembley Against Uninspired England

It took 24 years for the European Championship to once again play host to the rivalry between England and Scotland. Strange bedfellows in the strained union of the United Kingdom, the two nations have been anticipating this match ever since it was announced. For many, the overall result in the tournament was nearly an afterthought.

For the Premier League as an organization, it was an opportunity to boast. The majority of the two teams’ best players are active in the EPL after all. In the end, what the fans received got was a hard thought battle in the mud on a cold night in London. Hardly the spectacle previews had advertised.

England supporters would have naturally been the more confident of the two groups of fans. After all, this is a Three Lions side dubbed to be the best in several generations. In spite of rumors that Gareth Southgate would opt to rotate his squad heavily, the manager chose a similar side to the one that gained a victory against Croatia.

The only exceptions were the wing-backs, with Luke Shaw and Reece James starting the game and playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Steve Clarke also stuck to his 3-5-2 strategy. However, the manager settled on placing Scott McTominay in an unfamiliar central defender role, as well as having Billy Gilmour start in the central midfield area.

It was a game that might have seemed familiar to fans of 1980s English First Division football. There was plenty of fighting, some missed chances, and a focus on physicality over skill.

As in the game against Croatia, England started the match well. In the 11th minute, John Stones found himself on the receiving end of a corner. With little opposition to deny him, however, the defender’s header hit the post.

Defensive midfielders Declan Rice and Kalvin Philipps continued to feed the team’s attacking players with passes, but few were penetrating ones. Scotland proved a much more willing opponent than Croatia had been in the opening game.

The relentless pressing and the ability to maintain small width throughout awarded the Tartan Army several opportunities to counterattack which they did effectively. The team’s striker pairing, Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams found themselves only needing to beat Jordan Pickford on a few occasions.

In fact, the biggest goal opportunity of the game arrived in the 62nd minute when James was forced to head Dykes’ shot off the line. It would have been an unglamorous end to Southgate’s men’s return to Wembley.

Perhaps, no other metric better defines this British Derby than the shots ratio. Scotland enjoyed 11 shots to England’s 9. Only two shots from the Scottish team were on target. England managed only one. Is this all that this assortment of world-class attackers can deliver?

Yes, England did not live up to the billing. Fans of the Three Lions would naturally have been excited to witness a squad that boasts so much talent. Despite this, performances in the friendlies that lead up to Euro 2020, as well the two games in the tournament have not revealed the energy-fueled, creative team were lead to believe we would be watching.

The only upside is that finishing second in the group may help them avoid France, Portugal, or Germany. Harry Kane has not yet scored a goal, nor taken many shots on target. Phil Foden and Mason Mount are often sluggish. Kalvin Phillips is great, but only when given space. Raheem Sterling looks unreliable. Jack Grealish failed to make an impact. And, Jadon Sancho or Bukayo Saka were not even considered for the squad tonight.

England are one of the favorites to win the European Championship. They may qualify from this group. However, playing this way against Belgium, Italy, or France can only lead to embarrassment for the Harry Kane captained team.

Scotland, on the other hand, put in a gritty performance and could have walked away with the victory. This will go a long way in clearing the team’s good name after the disappointing loss to the Czech Republic. A victory will be needed in the final game against Croatia. After today’s match, a positive outcome looks much more realistic than it did a few weeks ago.

Euro 2020 has been a marvelously enjoyable game thus far, but this was one of the exceptions. The British Derby did not live up to the hype. Both teams will have, at least, one more opportunity to not merely salvage a point, but entertain as well.  


June 18, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group D

ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Pickford; James, Stones, Mings, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Foden (63′ Grealish), Mount, Sterling, Kane (74′ Rashford) (Johnstone, Ramsdale, Chilweek, Maguire, Coady, Trippier, Bellingham, Henderson, Sancho, Calvert-Levin) Coach: Southgate
SCOTLAND (3-4-1-2): Marshall; McTominay, Hanley, Tierney; O’Donnell, McGinn, Gilmour (76′ Armstrong), McGregor, Robertson; Dykes, Adams (86′ Nisbet) (McLaughlin, Gordon, Cooper, McKenna, Hendry, Patterson, Fraser, Christie, Forrest, Fleck) Coach: Clarke

REFEREE: Mateu Lahoz (Spain) NOTES: Yellow Card: McGinn, O’Donnell (S); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 3′