PREVIEW: Will EURO2024 provide Scotland with the chance to boogie in Berlin?

More than 200,000 Scottish fans are expected to be heading to Germany this summer, desperate to feast their eyes on the Tartan Army as Steve Clarke’s men compete in their second consecutive appearance at the EUROs.

They’ll certainly be bringing the soundtrack of the summer – between a rousing national anthem that has this innate ability to bring a tear to even the driest of eyes and Baccara’s infamous disco classic, the Scots will undoubtedly be boogieing all night long, regardless of the result.

Guided into the tournament by ex-Chelsea defender Steve Clarke, EURO2024 marks just the nation’s second appearance at a major tournament since the turn of the millennium. Four years ago, Scotland were reliant on the play-off system to earn their berth; ahead of Germany however, they were unlucky not to top a group with some serious European heavyweights.

“There should be no team that we fear – beating Spain along the way, it doesn’t matter who we play,” sings Nick Morgan in his No Scotland, No Party anthem that has rapidly been adopted by fans as the unofficial soundtrack of the Scottish summer.

That 2-0 win over Spain at Hampden Park is perhaps one of the more memorable evenings of EURO2024 qualification on the whole, coming as just one of the five consecutive victories that Scotland recorded to open their Group A campaign.

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But form has been hard to come by since that blistering start to qualification, and Scotland have recorded just one win since a routine 3-0 rout of Cyprus on 6 September. That victory came against Gibraltar earlier this month – and while Cymru laughably failed to replicate the feat, it’s hardly the most impressive opponent to overcome.

In fact, the Tartan Army have lost five of their nine fixtures since that September trip to Larnaca. Defeats at the hands of England, Spain and France are perhaps understandable – but settling for draws against Georgia and Norway left fans bitterly disappointed.

A four-goal hammering by the Dutch was followed by a slender loss to Northern Ireland in March, and that aforementioned win against Gibraltar came just days before Clarke witnessed his side throw away a two-goal lead against Finland in their final match ahead of EURO2024.

Of course, it’s best to get the patchy results out of the way before the tournament starts – but Scotland haven’t exactly instilled their fans with confidence ahead of a tricky opening day test against Germany in Munich on June 14.

While there is a pressure associated with starring in the opening match of the European Championships, history suggests it may swing in Scotland’s favour. Only thrice since 1988 has the host nation won the opening match (Belgium in 2000, France in 2016 and Italy in 2020), and that’s a statistic that Steve Clarke will be looking to preserve when the Tartan Army take to Bavaria.

Then, when all is said and done at the rebranded Allianz Arena, they’ll head west. An appealing tie on paper will see them take on Switzerland in Köln on June 19, before their group stage quest wraps up in Stuttgart four days later when they face a spirited Hungarian side.

But what can we expect from the Tartan Army?

In truth, nobody really knows yet. Rediscover that fine form that saw them fly through qualifying, and Scotland may just be able to see off the competition to reach the knockouts for the first time in their history. Carry on as they have of late though, and they could be spending less than two weeks on the continent.

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But their dreams could be dampened by a lack of high-quality depth. While Ben Doak’s injury-enforced withdrawal shouldn’t hurt the Scots too much, the absence of Lyndon Dykes could prove catastrophic. Steve Clarke is expected to utilise a makeshift defence that sees Kieran Tierney slot in as the left centre-back in a back five, with his preferred left-back position occupied by Liverpool’s Andy Robertson.

Arguably the most important area of this Scotland side is the midfield, and they are certainly not short of quality there. Scott McTominay is expected to sit deeper, allowing his colleagues to push forwards – and combined with a forward line that serves primarily to create space for the midfielders to push into, the Tartan Army should be able to turn quality into tangible results.

It is difficult to understand just what the expectations are for the Tartan Army – but regardless of their final result in Germany, a second successive appearance at the European Championships serves as a reminder of how far Scottish football has come since the dark days of the early 2000s.

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