What does the win in Norway do for Scotland’s Euro 2024 hopes?

Three games into the qualifying campaign and Scotland top Group A.

What does the win in Norway do for Scotland’s Euro 2024 hopes? SNS Group

One big goal for Kenny McLean, one giant step forward for Scotland’s Euro 2024 chances.

Scotland’s win on Saturday night continued a perfect start to qualifying for Steve Clarke’s side as they aim to reach next year’s finals in Germany.

In the short space of time from Erling Haaland’s perfect penalty putting Norway 1-0 up, through Lyndon Dykes’ equaliser and McLean’s finessed finish, the odds on the Tartan Army heading to Euro 2024 shifted significantly.

The players and manager were understandably elate as they spoke to the media after the final whistle but all were keen to strike a note of caution and insist that there was plenty work to be done and that all focus was on the next game.

While the team prepares to face Georgia on Tuesday in a match that would see Scotland reach the halfway point of the campaign, it’s time to take stock of where we are and how the road ahead looks.

The top two teams will qualify directly for the finals, and Scotland are in the driving seat, but any experienced fan will know that it’s rarely as straightforward as it looks.

Top of the table

Scotland sit at the top of Group A. (Photo by uefa.com)

Saturday’s victory came after a 3-0 home win over Cyprus and the famous 2-0 victory against top seeds Spain at Hampden.

It leaves the team in the enviable position of having maximum points and sitting well clear of the rest at this point, but being in a five-team group where one side sits out each round of pictures, games in hand skew the picture a little.

Top seeds and group favourites Spain sit mid-table with a home win against Norway and that defeat in Glasgow on their record, but hold a game in hand on Scotland.

Georgia travel to Hampden for Tuesday’s game in second place, with four points banked from a home match against Norway and a trip to Cyprus. Willy Sagnol’s side might be the fourth seeds but they know a victory this week would see them close the gap on first to just two points, while holding a game in hand.

When the group stage draw was made, it was widely assumed that Spain would cruise through in first place, while Norway would be Scotland’s clear rival for that second place. With that in mind, the table makes for happy reading, with the Norwegians eight points behind Scotland after playing just three games. Arsenal star and Norway captain Martin Odegaard as much as admitted that gap looked insurmountable after Saturday’s game.

What’s needed to qualify?

Scotland sit top of the pile right now but Group A sends two teams to the finals and finishing as runners-up would still see the team achieve their objective.

It’s only three games into the eight-match campaign and too early to judge exactly how many points will be needed to guarantee qualification. The team have nine on the board already, but as Clarke pointed out on Saturday, even 12 points will be nowhere near enough.

The Scotland boss’ remark came as he was emphasising the importance of taking points on the road in addition to winning home games but it also raised the question of what the golden number for reaching the Euros actually is.

Looking at the Euro 2020 qualifiers, the five-team groups can give some indication of what might be required.

In that campaign Netherlands qualified as group runners-up with 19 points, the highest second-placed tally, but a six-point gap to Northern Ireland in third meant the Dutch had plenty of room to spare.

The lowest points total of a second-placed team was Wales with 14 points from their eight games. The thought that Scotland could take just five points from their five remaining games and make the finals is a reassuring one.

The other three groups saw the runners-up finish on 15, 16 and 17 points. From that perspective, Scotland still have plenty to do but also a little wriggle room if there’s a setback.

What lies ahead?

While the optimists look at that lead in the group table, the more cautious will be looking at the fixture list instead.

On paper, putting the Group A games into order of difficulty would have seen most people put Spain away and at home as the toughest, with the trip to Norway as the next in line. Having negotiated two of those three and banked six points, some would think the most difficult part has already been done.

Looking at it another way, the challenge seems more daunting. At full time on Tuesday, Scotland will have played four of their eight qualifiers but also have 75% of their home games behind them.

Trips to Cyprus, Spain and Georgia remain, with the final group fixture against Norway being the only other other time Scotland enjoy home backing.

With that in mind, nobody in the Scotland camp will be playing down the importance of a win over Georgia this week. But after a start that’s seen three vital victories already, the Tartan Army will be looking ahead with confidence.

Scotland’s remaining qualifying fixtures

Georgia (home) – Tuesday, June 20

Cyprus (away) – Friday, September 8

Spain (away) – Thursday, October 12

Georgia (away) – Thursday, November 16

Norway (home) – Sunday, November 19

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