Scotland qualified for Euro 2024 with two games to spare thanks to Spain’s 1-0 victory over Norway. It’s been a memorable European qualification campaign for Steve Clarke’s men picking up wins against Spain and coming back from a goal down against Norway away from home scoring two in the last two minutes to snatch the three points. Clarke becomes the first Scotland manager in history to qualify for back-to-back European Championships.
The Tartan Army are playing a robust and physical style that frustrates the opposition. Spain and Manchester City midfielder Rodri was vocal in his criticism of Scotland’s approach, saying “They’re always wasting time, they provoke you, they fall down; for me, this is not football”. Clarke’s football isn’t easy on the eye to watch at times, but it has been effective in getting key results that helped secure qualification. If Clarke attempted to play Pep Guardiola-style-based football against Spain – Scotland would lose in humiliating fashion.
Former Crystal Palace owner and talkSport host Simon Jordan believes Scotland qualifying for the Euros shouldn’t be regarded as a huge achievement considering the other teams that were in the group. He said on talkSport: “Scotland specifically: punch your weight. Let’s have it right, they’ve qualified from a group where Cyprus are 126th in the world, Georgia are 76th with such luminaries as El Salvador in front of them. Norway are 43rd.
“You’re 34th in the world. The population of Cyprus is 1.2 million, the population of Georgia is 3.7 million. You’ve got every aspect of football history, football heritage, population, performances in the world rankings. You should be qualifying from these groups. Because you’ve managed to set yourself a low standard and achieved it, doesn’t mean it should be a perpetuation of that.”
Jordan is spot on with his assessment. With the squad that Clarke has got at his disposal, Scotland should be expected to qualify from the group. The fact that Scotland has only managed to qualify for two major tournaments in 25 years is quite embarrassing. Qualifying for major tournaments should be seen as the bare minimum.
Scotland are now at the stage where it’s time to start seriously competing on the big stage and Clarke must ensure that happens. Clarke can’t afford another dreadful display at a major tournament like he did at Euro 2020 finishing rock bottom of the group with only a single point.
For too long now, Scotland have been the punching bag for other nations to laugh at but if we go on to have a successful tournament in Germany, all that could change because many teams still don’t take Scotland all that seriously. Scotland are more than capable of reaching the latter stages of the Euros and they shouldn’t be going in with the mindset of ‘oh we’re happy to be here’ – they need to make a statement.
Euro 2024 is a long time away and Scotland are far from the finished article – but until June next year, Steve Clarke must keep the momentum going because the Tartan Army won’t be able to stomach another pitiful European tournament.
By: Scott Bradley / @ScottBradleyX
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Ian MacNicol / Getty Images