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Scotland national team: The Peru and Mexico double-header revisited

Scotland players at the end of their defeat to Peru.
Scotland players at the end of their defeat to Peru.

The Scotland national team trip to Mexico and Peru was much-derided at the time but might have provided the foundations for some of the nation’s Euro 2020 figures to come together for the first time.

Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan came under heavy fire for organising the long-haul camp, which came at the end of a busy season and ate into players’ rest periods before the start of the new season.

A number of Celtic players were not selected, while injuries were not on Alex McLeish’s side either ahead of the two games against teams preparing for the 2018 World Cup.

But with the benefit of hindsight, the experience may be looked on a little more favourably.

It brought together some uncapped and inexperienced players who have gone on to become regulars in the team under Steve Clarke, seven of which are part of his squad for the Euros.

Stephen O’Donnell is one of the most prominent names on the list. He had just come to the end of his first season back in Scotland at Kilmarnock, brought back north of the border by Clarke after two seasons at Luton Town.

He made his debut in the 2-0 defeat to Peru and has become one of the squad regulars, amassing 19 caps as his former club boss Clarke took the national team reins in 2019.

Scott McKenna is another who has spoken fondly of the trip. Having made his debut two months earlier against Costa Rica, the then-Aberdeen defender was hardly a regular in the Scotland setup.

However, on just his fourth cap for Scotland, McKenna was handed the captain’s armband in the Azteca Stadium.

Scott McKenna in action for the Scotland national team.
Scott McKenna in action for Scotland against Mexico.

Another Scott who went on the trip to the Americas was Manchester United midfielder McTominay.

After a breakthrough campaign under Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford, McTominay was included in the touring party after making his Scotland debut earlier in the year against Costa Rica.

His development for club and country has been constant over the last couple of years and he was deployed by Clarke at centre-back for the Autumn fixtures last year, which saw Scotland qualify for the Euros.

McTominay ended the season in imperious form for United and looks set for a pivotal role in midfield for the national team when the tournament gets under way.

Scott McTominay in Scotland training, with Alex McLeish watching on.
Scott McTominay in Scotland training, with Alex McLeish watching on.

It is difficult to remember days when Ryan Christie was not a Scotland regular but when these games came around, he was still a newcomer to the international scene.

Christie, who had just come off a loan at Aberdeen, was handed his debut in a 1-0 friendly defeat against the Netherlands at Pittodrie in November 2017.

The playmaker, who made his name with hometown club Caley Thistle, had only two caps to his name but started the game in Mexico City.

His place in national team folklore was secured with the goal against Serbia and unforgettable, emotional TV interview afterwards. Now at Celtic, Christie is likely to have a big role to play again in the coming weeks.

Jack Hendry in action for Scotland against Mexico.
Jack Hendry in action for Scotland against Mexico.

Jon McLaughlin – Scotland’s third-choice goalkeeper for the Euros – made his first appearance against Mexico, as did defender Jack Hendry.

Then at Dundee, Hendry made his debut in the 1-0 win over Hungary in March and was included against Mexico.

After a two-year hiatus from the national team, Hendry returned to the squad under Clarke earlier this year after an impressive loan spell at Oostende in Belgium and scored against the Netherlands last week.  The 26-year-old may have done enough to earn a start against the Czechs on Monday.

Kenny McLean and Oli McBurnie were also part of the touring team too and only had a handful of caps to their name at the time. Barring injury, they would have been involved in Clarke’s squad for the Euros.

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