As a reward for what has been an outstanding European Championships qualifying campaign, Scotland appear to be at high risk of being part of a “group of death” at the tournament next summer.
Qualifying in Pot 3, the Scots could end up facing hosts Germany, 2022 World Cup runners-up France or “auld enemy” England.
Pot 2 includes a mixed bag of Turkey, Hungary, Denmark, Albania, Austria and Romania, but Pot 4 contains historically strong sides such as Italy, Switzerland and, potentially, Ukraine, Poland and/or Greece as well as Serbia and, potentially, Iceland.
Notably, though, regardless of which countries Steve Clarke’s side will face in the tournament, they won’t just be happy to be there.
“When we go to the next one, hopefully we’ll be in a better place, and we can show a bit more. That’s progression. And that’s the ambition for this group,” national team stalwart and Celtic captain Callum McGregor told the press this week. “When we get to Germany in the summer, we want to give a proper show of ourselves. To get an individual achievement of scoring at a major tournament, it’s great and good for your CV. But ultimately it doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t win the game or qualify. Hopefully we can have a more successful group stage than we did last time.”
The Scots, of course, qualified for the 2020 tournament as well, though it was actually played in the summer of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It included home matches at Hampden, but in front of limited crowds as the virus still posed a threat.
“Hampden was less than a third full and football’s about supporters bringing an atmosphere,” McGregor said. “That lifts everything and I’m sure you’ll see a totally different tournament in Germany.”
To help make that happen, Clarke says he will attempt to schedule four “competitive” friendlies to prepare the squad. They’ll need that to properly give a group that will potentially include some players not used to the big stage that “edge.”
“There will be no easy games for those teams who meet Scotland,” he told the press. “We are Scotland, we have a certain way of playing, we like to play on the front foot.”
Germany better be ready—but so, too, the Scots.