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Scotland’s best-ever chance to reach knockout football? Scotland’s UEFA Euro 2024 Preview

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When Scotland take to the field in Germany, at Euro 2024, this summer, they will be doing so much more than just fighting for a place in the knockout stages.

There is so much more at stake for the Tartan Army, as they look to avoid further embarrassment on the international footballing stage, and reach knockout football for the first time.

Scotland have competed in eight World Cups and four European Championships previously, but have so far never made it out of the group stages, with their most recent effort resulting in a fourth-placed finish in Group D at Euro 2021 – where England, Croatia and the Czech Republic all finished ahead of them.

This time around, with what many perceive to be an easier group than in 2021, Scotland may have their best chance in a lifetime to finally reach what has forever eluded them – international knockout football.

But, with an injury crisis which would stretch even the strongest team to their absolute limit, there are real fears over how the Scots will fare in Germany.

Lewis Ferguson, Lyndon Dykes and Ben Doak are just some of the long list of absentees who would have been expected to play a large role at the tournament, and the question looms as to whether Scotland have a squad deep enough to handle this crisis.

Patience is so often a luxury in football, and Scotland manager Steve Clarke could be on the verge of finding out just how thin that patience can wear.

The 60-year-old Scotsman has been in charge of the national team since 2019, after replacing Alex McLeish, who was sacked after just 12 games between 2018 and 2019 – McLeish’s second time serving as Scotland manager.

Although Clarke enjoyed a transformative start to life as Scotland’s manager, which included qualifying for their first European Championships in 25 years in 2021, their success has not spiralled and the national side have endured a barren run of results in recent times.

Draws against Georgia and Norway last November were followed up by a heavy defeat against the Netherlands, as well as a 1-0 defeat at home to Northern Ireland this March – which created a poor atmosphere around the team, to say the least.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Though their injuries have to be taken into account, an unconvincing 2-0 win against Gibraltar and 2-2 draw at home to Finland, where Scotland led by two goals, have really turned the pressure on Clarke up.

The disappointment of 2021, where the Tartan Army mustered only a single point in their Euro group, coupled with recent disappointing results and a general disillusion between fans and the national team mean that failure is not an option for Clarke this summer.

With David Moyes, a fan-favourite among possible contenders to replace Clarke, now a free agent after leaving West Ham, Clarke simply cannot afford another tournament of failure, otherwise it may well be his last.

Scotland lost just once in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign and yet, somehow, managed to end the qualifiers with a sour taste around the team.

Drawn in a group alongside Spain, Norway, Georgia and Cyprus, Scotland were always expected to compete with Norway for second place, and a place in the tournament, with Spain expected to race off into the distance.

The group largely lived up to expectations, though for some time there was a real belief that the Scots could potentially top the group.

After starting the campaign with five successive wins, including a historic 2-0 home win against Spain, and a battling 2-1 win in Norway, there was a real buzz around the national team and a belief that the squad could go far.

A 2-0 defeat away to Spain was followed up by back-to-back draws against Georgia and Norway, which saw the Scots’ qualifying campaign end with three games without a win, with a 4-1 friendly defeat against France sandwiched in between.

Hope remained high after this campaign but, given how well it had started for them, the ending was certainly a reality check of sorts, at a time when they could have probably done without one – despite ultimately still qualifying for the tournament.

With star man Lyndon Dykes injured for the tournament, questions have been asked about where Scotland’s goals will come from in Germany.

If their two warm-up matches are anything to go by, Clarke looks set to rely on Heart of Midlothian striker Lawrence Shankland to lead the line for the Scots.

The 28-year-old scored 24 goals in the Scottish Premiership last season and has scored three goals in 11 appearances for the national team, since making his debut back in 2019.

Few doubt his credentials as a prolific goalscorer within the Scottish borders but, against the world’s best, his ability is yet to be truly tested.

Having not played at Euro 2021, this will be Shankland’s first major international tournament, and a chance to showcase his talents in front of a global audience for the first time.

If his last two seasons in the Scottish Premiership, where he has scored 48 and assisted eight goals, are anything to judge, Shankland will be pivotal to Scotland’s chances in Germany and a player to keep an eye on over the course of the tournament.

  • Predicted Line-up vs Germany

Formation – 3-4-2-1

Angus Gunn; Porteous, Hendry, Tierney; Ralstone, Gilmour, McGregor, Robertson; McTominay, McGinn; Shankland

Coming against the hosts is never easy, and Scotland will have to do that in their opening game after being drawn in Group A for Euro 2024.

Alongside themselves and Germany, the Scots will also have to contend with Switzerland and Hungary, two young and exciting teams with expectations to reach the knockout stages.

So while Scotland may well view this as a more favourable group than they faced at Euro 2021, they would be naive to underestimate their opponents and the danger that they can bring.

You can find the dates and times of Scotland’s group games here, as well as how to watch them:

Friday 14th June 2024 – Scotland vs Germany, 8:00 pm BST, Live on ITV 1 

Wednesday 19th June 2024 – Scotland vs Switzerland, 8:00 pm BST, Live on BBC One 

Sunday 23rd June 2024 – Scotland vs Hungry, 8:00 pm BST, Live on BBC One

Scotland during an open training session (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)
Scotland during an open training session (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Unfortunately, the odds looked stacked against Scotland at Euro 2024 and, for fans and players alike, it could be a very long couple of weeks.

With the strength of Germany, and the slightly lesser strength, but excitement and flair of Switzerland and Hungary, this would be a challenging group for any nation to advance from.

But when you factor in the extent of Scotland’s injury problems, a route to the knockout stages looks bleak, to say the least, and, actually, it is possible to imagine a world whereby the Scots fail to earn a single point.

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