STEVE Clarke has wrestled with some rather pleasant selection dilemmas in the last week as he has finalised his starting line-up for Scotland’s opening Euro 2020 match against the Czech Republic at Hampden this afternoon.

Does he pick Che Adams or Lyndon Dykes at striker? Or does he deploy both of them in attack? Does he favour Ryan Christie or Ryan Fraser out wide? Does he play Stuart Armstrong or Callum McGregor alongside Scott McTominay? Or does he even hand Billy Gilmour the opportunity to show what he is capable of?

Whoever kicks off the Group D game in attack and midfield will ply their trade at club level at a very high level and have shown in the past that they can shine when making the switch to the international game.  

The same can be said of John McGinn and McTominay, whose spots are, barring illness or injury, assured.

Clarke will be completely confident that his charges can contain and disrupt their opponents in the middle of the park, create openings in the final third and convert scoring chances with such an array of talent at his disposal. They have certainly done so before.

Much will depend on how he wants to play against dangerous rivals. Do they take a cautious approach, sit back and seek to net on the counter? Or do they, with a sizeable home support roaring them on in the 12,500-strong crowd, throw caution to the wind and go more gung-ho? He will pick a team to suit his tactics. But he has the strength in depth he needs whatever way he decides to go.

It is why there is genuine hope among the always-optimistic members of the Tartan Army that Scotland, despite not playing in a major tournament since France ’98, can do the country proud. There are no weak links.

At the back, though, Clarke has a far greater headache. Picking goalkeeper David Marshall, left centre back Kieran Tierney and wing back Andy Robertson are, as the Americans would say, no brainers. He would be frogmarched out of the stadium if left any member of that trio on the replacements’ bench.

But who to pick alongside them? Getting that right will go a long way towards clinching a place in the last 16 of Euro 2020. Getting that wrong could prove very costly indeed.

In the 13 matches hat Scotland have played since competitive football resumed after the coronavirus lockdown no fewer than nine players have slotted in to his defence; Andy Considine, Liam Cooper, Declan Gallagher, Grant Hanley, Paul Hanlon, Jack Hendry, Scott McKenna, McTominay and Tierney.

Who his most reliable three are remains unclear. Opinion among supporters and pundits is divided. Everyone has a different view. It is not an ideal position to be in going into their first finals in 23 long years.

Their best performances were against Israel and Serbia in the play-off semi-finals and finals last year when Tierney, Gallagher and McTominay featured. But the latter will move forward in the absence of Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean. And Gallagher sat out the last three competitive games due to his form dipping.

Hanley and Hendry came in for the World Cup qualifiers. They have excelled for Norwich in England and Oostende in Belgium respectively in the past 10 months. But they didn’t wholly convince. Neither have Cooper or McKenna in the past. They have all been at fault for goals with lapses in concentration.

They are all good professionals. Cooper skippered Leeds United to ninth in the Premier League this term while McKenna earned rave reviews after joining Championship outfit Nottingham Forest last year. But they have previously been exposed while representing Scotland.

Personally, I would go with Gallagher in the middle and Cooper on the right. But no two fans can agree. It is a quandry which the manager must solve if his team are to progress to the knockout rounds for the first time in their history.

Then there is right wing-back. Stephen O’Donnell of Motherwell should retain his jersey due to his experience. He has been excellent on many occasions and has a strong and long-standing relationship with his head coach. Still, the prospect of a hard-working but limited player coming up against Jakub Jankto, Raheem Sterling and Ivan Perisic in the coming eight days is slightly concerning.

Nathan Patterson of Rangers could make the position his own for years to come if the progress he has made at Ibrox this season proceeds apace. The fast and physical teenager was unfazed by matches against Celtic in the Premiership and Royal Antwerp and Slavia Prague in the Europa League. In fact, he excelled. But with less than half an hour of international football against Luxembourg under his belt he is unlikely to be preferred. 

Clarke isn’t daft. He has overachieved with West Brom, Kilmarnock and Scotland over the years and can do so again at Euro 2020. His players admire, respect and enjoy working under him. But if one of his centre backs gets sucked out of position, fresh airs a clearance or misplaces a header at a critical moment against quality adversaries it could be a short tournament.