Why Stuart Armstrong didn’t want a walkover win against Czech Republic

Scotland midfielder desperate to add to his caps in Nations League match
Stuart Armstrong has a laugh at training at the Oriam. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNSStuart Armstrong has a laugh at training at the Oriam. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Stuart Armstrong has a laugh at training at the Oriam. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

Stuart Armstrong is glad Scotland are being made to earn three points the hard way against Czech Republic tonight following reports the fixture had been called off on Friday night.

The Southampton midfielder will be hoping to get more than 11 minutes on the field in Olomouc this evening following his cameo in the 1-1 draw with Israel four days ago.

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He wants to play a part in Scotland securing a confidence-boosting win on the pitch after the dropping of two points in their last outing.

Stuart Armstrong during his 11-minute cameo against Israel. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PAStuart Armstrong during his 11-minute cameo against Israel. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA
Stuart Armstrong during his 11-minute cameo against Israel. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

He acknowledged that the 3-0 away win Scotland looked set to be awarded had Czech Republic not fulfilled the fixture due to Covid-19 concerns would have been helpful in terms of their Nations League hopes. But there is nothing like pulling the shirt on for your country. Armstrong is desperate to secure a win on his 21st international appearance tonight while sweating for the cause.

“Three points is three points, you take it anyway you can,” he said. “But, certainly speaking for myself, you want to play. You want to do it on the pitch and represent your country.”

He provided details of how the players learned of the emerging news that the match with Czech Republic was in doubt.

“We heard on the way back from the [Israel] game,” he said. “There was a bit of talk amongst the boys. It was a bit confusing at first but it was cleared up on Saturday 

“There was a bit of uncertainty after the Israel game but it was all cleared up pretty
quickly after that and it was business as usual. We carried on as normal from the Saturday morning, as we prepared for the game.”

He acknowledged the unusual circumstances with Czech Republic having had to quickly
assemble a completely fresh squad to the one that secured a 3-1 victory over Slovakia on Friday. However, he rejected this meant the visitors would be under any more pressure than usual tonight.

“There is always pressure and expectation and we have grown accustomed to that over the years,” he said. “This is no exception although we are in a very unusual circumstance with the Czech team having to change most if not all of their squad. I don’t think anyone has seen anything like that before.

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“We will prepare the game to the best of our capabilities and whatever team they field I am sure it will be a good one, if maybe slightly less experienced. We will be looking to go into the game with optimism and looking to take as much away from it as possible.”

Armstrong stressed that he and his team-mates were at ease with being made to play a fixture in Czech Republic amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in the country and following positive tests within the opposition’s camp. It has led to the extraordinary situation where an entirely different squad has been put together at short notice for this evening’s Group B2 fixture.

“Football is continuing across the world with protocols in place and, for a large part of that, it’s been very successful,” the former Dundee United midfielder said.

“So, in footballers’ minds and certainly in this team, we’re very careful and we follow the protocol. But we’re all very comfortable with how things are progressing.”

Clubs, he reported, have been in touch with players for an update on the situation, including his own. “I think they have trust in the organisations when you go to represent your country,” he said.

“We [Southampton] have players from a number of 
different countries. But there is a lot of preparation that goes into that, a lot of contact between the club and the international countries. I would say they’re quite comfortable with the situation.”

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