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Sport

Scotland eye history at Euro 2024 despite form and fitness fears

todayJune 5, 2024 6

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Scotland will be roared on at Euro 2024 by a travelling Tartan Army of up to 200,000 fans, but they travel to Germany in hope more than expectation after a testing time for Steve Clarke’s men.

In October, Scotland secured qualification for just a second major tournament in 26 years but before Monday’s 2-0 victory against Gibraltar they had failed to win in seven games.

That run coincided with a step up in opposition as defeats to England, Spain, France and the Netherlands showcased the quality gap that still exists between Scotland and Europe’s best despite the progress made since Clarke took charge in 2019.

A clash with hosts Germany to open the tournament in Munich on June 14 is a daunting prospect.

However, Scotland believe they can progress beyond the group stage at a major tournament for the first time in their history, with matches against Switzerland and Hungary to follow in Group A.

“This squad have been fantastic for me and fantastic for their country and now they have a chance to create a bit of history, so let’s see if we can do that,” said Clarke.

“We will need top-level performances against good teams. We are going to have to play to our maximum in the three group games.”

Injuries have robbed Clarke of a number of key players.

Neither of his preferred options at right-back, Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson, made the preliminary squad, while Lewis Ferguson, who won Serie A midfielder of the season for his performances with Bologna, is also sidelined.

A recent training ground injury that ruled striker Lyndon Dykes out of Euro 2024 is the latest blow for a squad short on goalscorers.

Southampton’s Che Adams and Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland are the only recognised strikers left available to Clarke.

But it is from midfield that Scotland scored the goals that propelled them to Germany, ahead of a Norway side blessed with the talents of Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard.

Aston Villa captain John McGinn and Manchester United’s Scott McTominay combined for 10 of Scotland’s 17 goals in qualifying.

At the back there is also Premier League pedigree in Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney.

Three years ago, Scotland’s first taste of major tournament football in a generation was a bittersweet one.

Coronavirus regulations limited crowds at home defeats at Hampden Park to the Czech Republic and Croatia to just 12,000.

The Tartan Army are planning to make up for lost time, with the British consulate in Munich predicting as many as 200,000 Scotland fans could head to the tournament, with the team’s matches taking place in Munich, Cologne and Stuttgart.

Many of the players in the squad featured at the Covid-delayed European Championship in 2021. Robertson is hoping they will learn from that experience.

“Obviously, the qualification was unbelievable but different… the world was still in quite a weird, strange place,” said the Scotland captain.

“It was a learning curve and a lot of us, a lot of the squad, are similar and hopefully we’ve learned a lesson from that.”

There is little doubt the travelling hordes will enjoy the hospitality of Germany’s famous beer halls.

It is up to the team to give them something historic to toast.

kca/jw/pb

MANCHESTER UNITED

AFP

(NAMPA / AFP)

Written by: Staff Writer

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