The big kick-off: Scotland prepares to face Germany in Euro 2024 opener

Steve Clarke and his players take on the hosts in the glamour game in Germany.

The big kick-off: Scotland prepares to face Germany in Euro 2024 opener Getty Images

Since the first competition in 1960, the Euros have provided some of the most memorable moments in football’s storied history. 

There’s Marco Van Basten’s glorious volley in 1988, Greece’s underdog triumph in 2004, Davor Suker’s chip over Peter Schmeichel in 1996.

Denmark’s players being called from the beaches to win in 1992, Antonin Panenka inventing the Panenka in 1976 or Michel Platini’s domination of the 1984 tournament; every four years there are new heroes and unforgettable goals or results.

Now, there are more to come in a month-long festival of football that begins with hosts Germany facing none other than Steve Clarke’s Scotland in front of a sell-out crowd at the Allianz Arena on Friday night.

Scotland enjoyed a stunning qualifying campaign, that included a dizzying 2-0 win over Spain at Hampden but they will be the underdogs against Julian Nagelsmann’s side, when the eyes of Europe will be on the opening match.

The manager has been putting his players through their paces at a training camp in the Alpine ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and daily reports from the squad have shown excitement building as the clock ticks down towards kick-off.

Scotland’s aim at the finals is simple: to make history by reaching the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time.

The new format offers encouragement, with the best third-placed sides advancing as well as the top two in each group, but Clarke and his players face Switzerland and Hungary after taking on Germany and neither can be considered a soft touch for three points.

A positive result in Friday’s opener would be a dream start to the campaign. Every point is valuable but the confidence boost from putting in a strong performance against the hosts would be huge.

Optimists have pointed to Germany’s disappointing recent tournament record, and very mixed friendly results, as evidence that this side isn’t to be feared as much as some sides from the past. But one look through the squad is a ready reminder of how tough a task Scotland face.

Manuel Neuer, Antonio Rudiger, Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan have a wealth of experience and make up the spine of the team, while the youthful talents of Florian Wirtz and Jamial Musiala show that there’s a new generation of German footballers who have credible aspirations to match the achievements of those that have gone before.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 28: Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates as he makes it 1-0 during a UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifier between Scotland and Spain at Hampden Park, on March 28, 2023, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)SNS Group

Scotland have had injury issues to deal with, leading to Aaron Hickey, Nathan Patterson, Lewis Ferguson, Lyndon Dykes and Ben Doak all missing out on the finals but Clarke has a strong group to choose from.

The core of the team has established players from English Premier League or Champions League clubs and, crucially, experience from three years ago when Scotland ended their decades-long exile from major competition by reaching Euro 2020.

Clarke and the players have admitted to learning from last time around and the head coach in particular has said that he has made changes for the approach to this one.

One change that Clarke made was to hold the initial training camp in Glasgow to help the players understand the excitement and connect with fans.

The move was in contrast to the 2020 finals, which were shaped by Covid and had Clarke feeling a disconnect from the supporters.

There’s no danger of that this time around. Scotland have been allocated 10,000 tickets in the Allianz Arena, though plenty more have snapped up tickets in the ‘neutral’ sections of the 70,000-seat venue.

Thousands more will be in Munich, and it’s estimated that around 200,000 Scots will descend on Germany over the course of the group stage.

It’s been 243 days since Scotland’s qualification for the finals was guaranteed, and more than six months since the draw that handed the national team the glamour of the opening game.

When captain Andy Robertson leads the team out on to the pitch just before 8pm, the waiting will be over and Scotland’s bid to make history will begin.

Ready for UEFA Euro 2024? We are. Catch Scotland’s opener versus Germany plus other key matches on STV and STV Player.

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