Euro 2024: Scotland permutations and what they need to qualify

Scotland could make it through to the knock-out stages of Euro 2024 with victory against Hungary on Sunday.

Euro 2024: Scotland permutations and what they need to qualify Getty Images

Scotland could qualify for the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time in their history on Sunday.

Steve Clarke’s men sit third in their group having taken just one point from their first two Group A matches against Germany and Switzerland.

The Tartan Army now march onto Stuttgart for the final group game against Hungary – where a victory would almost certainly see this side eclipse all previous Scotland sides and take the team into the knockout stages.

However, if Scotland fail to beat the Hungarians – they could be in danger of missing out.

What are Steve Clarke’s side’s chances and what are the permutations that could see them seal a place in the last 16?

Group A table

Scotland cannot come top of Group A – and they are very unlikely to finish in second place.

The only way that can happen is if they beat Hungary, Germany beat Switzerland, and the two scorelines mean Scotland make up a six-goal swing in goal difference required to overtake the Swiss (their draw means head-to-head record is irrelevant at this stage).

Scotland’s more realistic hope is to beat Hungary and hope that’s enough to put them through as one of the four best third-placed teams across all six groups.

History suggests that is likely to be the case, as no side has ever got at least four points and failed to progress since the tournament expanded to 24 teams in 2016; however, it cannot be declared a mathematical certainty at this stage.

What if Scotland win against Hungary?

Scotland win and Switzerland lose: If Scotland beat Hungary on Sunday then they could potentially guarantee their place in the last-16 without having to worry about any other groups.

But they would need Germany to beat Switzerland while also making up a six or seven-goal swing in their favour to take second place in Group A.

So if, for example, Steve Clarke’s side win 3-0 and the hosts also win 3-0, then Scotland will take second place on goals-scored, likewise if Scotland win 4-0 and Germany win 2-0 or Scotland win 5-0 and Germany win 1-0.

However, in the event of Scotland winning 2-0 and Switzerland losing 4-0 then both sides would be equal on points, equal on goal-difference and equal on goals-scored.

That would mean second place in the group would be determined by who had the least amount of disciplinary points over the three games – which is not good news for Scotland who currently have the most disciplinary points in the tournament following four yellow cards and Ryan Porteous’s sending off against Germany.

If Scotland win 1-0 and Switzerland lose 5-0 then the Swiss would take second place on goals-scored.

Any seven goal swing would see Scotland finish second.

In any case, the team that finished third in that scenario would likely qualify as one of the best third-placed teams with four points but would need to wait until all the other groups are decided before that was confirmed.

Scotland win and Switzerland win or draw: If Scotland win and Switzerland get at least a point against Germany then Steve Clarke’s side will face an anxious wait to see if they have done enough to reach the knockout stages.

That would leave the national team in third and although any third place team with four points has qualified in the last two tournaments they would still need to wait for all the other groups to finish before that was confirmed.

The worst third placed team ever to reach the knockout stages was Ukraine in 2020 when the finished with three points and a goal-difference of -1.

The best third placed team to miss out on reaching the stage were Turkey and Finland who both finished on three points and a goal-difference of -2 in 2016 and 2020 respectively.

So while four points would likely be enough it would be a nervy three-day wait for the Tartan Army for that to be guaranteed.

What if Scotland draw with Hungary?

There is still a slight chance that a draw would be enough to send Scotland into the last-16 but again it would be heavily dependent on results from other groups going their way.

As stated above, the worst team to reach the knockouts from third place had three points and a -1 goal-difference.

A draw against Hungary would leave Scotland on two points with a goal difference of -4.

But as unlikely as it seems that would be enough, stranger things have happened and they wouldn’t be booking their flights home just yet with the way other groups have gone.

For example, if Spain and Italy both win their last group games against Croatia and Albania, as they are expected to do, then third place in that group would only have one point.

That would leave Scotland needing only one more team to finish with less than two points or have two points but a worse goal-difference than -4 to make history by getting out of the groups.

Likewise, if England and Slovenia win their games on Thursday night against Denmark and Serbia, with England winning 4-0, and then Denmark and Serbia drawing 0-0 in their final group game – then Denmark would be in third with two points and a goal-difference of -4 but with less goals than Scotland.

So as unfeasible as it may sound, there is still a slim possibility that they could scrape through with only two points.

What if Scotland lose to Hungary?

In the most straightforward outcome of the lot, if Scotland lose to Hungary then their Euro 2024 would officially be over on Sunday.

Defeat in Stuttgart would consign Steve Clarke’s men to a bottom place finish in Group A and put the Hungarians in third.

That would mean yet another major tournament had passed by with Scotland failing to get any further than the group stages.

However, the nation looks to keep the optimism burning ahead of what promises to be an intriguing Sunday in Germany.

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