There's a special feeling about Scotland's Euro 2024 opener against Germany

The showpiece match in Munich promises to be on a different level.

From Raman Bhardwaj in Garmisch-Partenkirchen 

‘Let’s puff the chest out and go out there and do as well as we can.” 

Steve Clarke isn’t one for showing much emotion, but when I sat down with him ahead of Scotland’s Euro 2024 opener against Germany, there was a moment his guard dropped. A small movement of his chest towards our camera as he spoke, demonstrating what he wants from his players inside the Allianz Arena on Friday night. 

What an occasion this promises to be. 

There will be 70,000 fans – of whom at the very least 10,000 will be draped in dark blue – inside the awesome home of Bayern Munich. Tens of thousands more Scots in the city – some reckon as many as 200,000 will be in Germany. And millions back home watching with pride, hope and expectation. 

Scotland’s moment is upon us. 

No doubt we’ll be put through the wringer. This is part of the package when you’re invested in the national football team. 

This is something I’ve experienced as a fan and as a journalist. 

It’s approaching 25 years since I started covering sport, so I missed France ‘98. There was a feeling back then Scotland playing at a major tournament was a routine experience. 

We’d qualified for six out of the previous seven World Cups and played at Euro 92 and Euro 96. 

Everyone had grown to expect to party at a major tournament every two years. 

What followed were the wilderness years. Berti Vogts, Walter Smith, Alex McLeish (twice), George Burley, Craig Levein and Gordon Strachan all tried to but failed to get Scotland back to the top table. 

Step forward, Steve Clarke.  

When he took over as head coach five years ago, it was a bumpy start. 

Scotland suffered four consecutive defeats to Belgium and Russia in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign. The road back to the big time looked an arduous one. 

But qualification was secured via the Nations League. We’ll never forget that night in Serbia as Scotland reached dreamland. 

The Euro 2020 championship had its moments.  

A hard-fought draw against England, with Billy Gilmour shining through a player of the match performance, being the highlight. But Covid restrictions and a UK setting for all of Scotland’s games meant it didn’t quite capture the glamour of previous tournaments.  

Euro 2024 has a special feeling. To play the opening game against one of the giants of world football is a once in a generation opportunity.  

Or as Clarke puts it: ”The opening game, come on, the opening game against the host nation. It’s going to be a spectacular occasion.” 

Scotland go into the game as big underdogs. Some bookmakers are offering 12/1 on a win for Steve Clarke’s side.  

But this team has come a long way under this head coach. An exhilarating run in qualifying – with the Scots securing their place at this year’s tournament with two games to spare – included an unforgettable win over Spain, meaning the players fear no one.  

Results in friendly matches since then show there’s a bit to go. The late slip that saw the team draw with Finland in the send-off game at Hampden is the latest example. And Scotland have kept just one clean sheet in their last nine games – against the second lowest ranked team in Europe (Gibraltar).  

But, when on their game, there’s a belief, purpose and even a swagger in the team. 

They will be led on the pitch by Andy Robertson. Following last week’s game against Finland, the Liverpool defender became Scotland’s most-capped captain, overtaking George Young. Robertson epitomises the drive and confidence in the team. As well as his defensive duties, he offers a potent attacking threat. 

Scott McTominay – who was the joint fifth top scorer in the qualifying campaign with seven goals – has become a talismanic figure. Some of us took a deep breath when McTominay was injured against Burnley a few weeks ago. He later revealed on Instagram all was fine and dandy. Phew. 

And there’s John McGinn. Super John McGinn. His cheeky chappy and relatable nature shouldn’t overshadow his talent.  

Clarke has found a way to get the best from McGinn, who like McTominay has become a vital source of goals. He goes into the Euros after captaining Aston Villa into the Champions League places. 

While Ben Doak may not have been in the starting eleven, his inclusion in the provisional squad generated a lot of excitement. The uncapped teenager would have offered the team something different with his pace and skill. His withdrawal last week due to injury is a major disappointment. Doak, Aaron Hickey, Nathan Patterson, Lyndon Dykes, Lewis Ferguson and Jacob Brown all miss out through injury. 

Right back is a concern. With Hickey and Patterson ruled out of the tournament, Clarke’s options are Anthony Ralston – who hasn’t had much game time at Celtic this season – or Ross McCrorie. McCrorie earned his first cap against Gibraltar last week.

Ralston grew into the game against Finland and the smart money would be on the Celtic defender being tasked with keeping Bayer Leverkusen star Florian Wirtz quiet. And what a task. 

And who’ll be Clarke’s three central defenders? Kieran Tierney will take his place on the left of three. Meaning it’s likely to be two out of Grant Hanley, Jack Hendry and Ryan Porteous. 

Porteous started seven out of the eight qualifiers, with Hendry alongside him in four of those games. 

Hanley, who was sidelined for most of the campaign with an Achilles problem, tends to start when fit. 

Clarke was keen to get him as much game time as possible before the Euros, with the Norwich defender playing 45 minutes against Gibraltar and the 90 against Finland, partnering Hendry in the latter. That would suggest Clarke is set to go with the pair in Munich. 

Whoever takes to the pitch, the aim is clear: create history and reach the knockout stages at a major tournament for the first time. They’ve got three games to achieve this. A positive result against the hosts could ignite the whole campaign. 

The size of the occasion makes it difficult to look past the opening game. I’ve been to big matches in Germany and they don’t lack for atmosphere. But the noise inside the Allianz Arena promises to be on a different level. 

Clarke recently said he wants his players to play the game rather the occasion. But with a global audience tuned in, it will be difficult for reality to match the rhetoric. 

The Tartan Army expects a big performance, the players have belief that can kick off with a positive result and the head coach has insisted that his side will be ready when it matters. 

When the decibel count lifts in the Allianz Arena, Scotland need to rise to the occasion.  

From the moment the national anthem starts, that’s when we’ll need to see those chests puffed out and the team that made huge strides in qualifying step up to another level. 

And if they do, it could be the start of a special campaign. Amen to that. I drew Scotland in the office sweep. 


Tartan Army ‘takes over’ Munich ahead of Germany vs Scotland game. STV News Ronnie Charters has met the fans. #euros #scotland #tartanarmy #munich #germany #football #euros2024 #scottishfans #stv #stvnews #stvsport

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