EURO 2024 is right around the corner and once again the tartan army is on its way. With Scotland’s qualification all wrapped up for the second consecutive European Championships, focus now turns to Germany next summer where Steve Clarke and his men will hope to go where no Scotland side has ever gone before. It will undoubtedly be a tough task, especially after the disappointment of their EURO 2020 campaign ending in a damp squib on home soil at the hands of Croatia.
That heart-wrenching defeat could’ve crushed this team’s spirit and sent Scotland back to the doldrums of European football but they instead picked themselves up and soared to new heights this qualifying campaign. In the process, they not only put some of Europe’s biggest powerhouses on notice but also gave hope to a nation that this could be a EUROs campaign to be written into Scottish folklore. Here’s an early look at what to expect from Scotland in Germany next summer.
The Scots have more than impressed since beginning their qualification bid back in March, maintaining a 100% record in their first five matches of the campaign for the first time in their history. That feat in itself justifiably earned Clarke’s side their plaudits but it was heroic triumphs over Spain at Hampden and Norway in Oslo that really put the cherry on the cake.
Back in March Scott McTominay’s masterful double floored the Spaniards and sent the rapturous Glasgow crowd into frenzy. It marked Spain’s first defeat in European qualifying since October 2014, ending a run of 19 consecutive matches without defeat. Furthermore, it was the first time a Scotland side had managed to overturn the Spanish in a competitive contest for 39 years. As if things couldn’t get any better for the Tartan Army, somehow, unbelievably, just three months on, they did just that. Norwegian goal scoring machine Erling Haaland put the hosts in front in Oslo with a well struck penalty in the second half.
The Scots looked short of ideas, heading for defeat with time ticking on. It was going to take something special for Clarke’s men to come away with anything. However they didn’t just get one miracle, they got two. In the 87th minute, Lyndon Dykes capitalised on disarray at the back of the Norwegian defence to sneak in the equalizer before a stunning finish from Kenny McLean just 104 seconds later completed an unlikely but phenomenal turnaround to secure victory on the road for Scotland. Bedlam ensued on the pitch, in the stands and in every bar in the land back home as the gravity and significance of that result started to sink in. It put Scotland in firm control of their own destiny, a stronghold they would not relinquish.
There were a few hiccups in the backend of the group stage, most notably an undercooked performance away in Georgia and three points slipping through their fingers at home to Norway, but overall it has been as complete a qualifying campaign that Scotland could’ve hoped for. It marks the first occasion since 1998 the Scots have made a major tournament through the conventional qualifying method, perhaps the most obvious indicator of the progress made under Clarke. The 60-year-old boss has done a remarkable job since taking over in 2019, establishing a synergy within the side and a core group of players that have achieved one thing that has been absent from the Scottish national side for decades…consistency. The players have bought into Clarke’s gameplan and results have come along with it. Now they are armed with not only the belief, but the knowledge that on their day they can overturn anyone, whether that be a two-time European champion outfit, or an up-and-coming golden generation with only a few minutes to spare. The mental fortitude is there now, but that in itself will not be enough.
Scotland are understandably longshots to win the tournament at 80/1 but punters who enjoy betting with Trustly can still place an outside bet on Scotland to shock the world. Key performers will need to bring their best just to make it out of the group. After all it would be the first time they reach the knockout phase of a major tournament in their history if they pulled it off, but thankfully for the Tartan Army, Scotland’s talismen are finding their form. McTominay’s goal contributions were gold dust this qualifying campaign; without his seven goals and one assist in this run Scotland would not be heading to Germany next summer. He found his shooting boots more than ever before in 2023 and hopes will be high that he can find them again in 2024.
It’s hard to look past the importance of John McGinn in midfield either with the 29-year-old setting much of the tone for the campaign and controlling the pace of the game. Alongside him will likely be the ever-present Callum McGregor and Scotland fans will have their fingers crossed that behind him will be their returning captain Andrew Robertson to complete the quartet of Scotland’s best and brightest. All four will be critical if Scotland are to successfully clear their path to the knockout stages of EURO 2024. All eyes are on the draw on December 2nd but in the interim Scotland supporters can simply revel in the magnitude of Clark’s accomplishments and dream of how far this side can go.