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Euro 2024: Scotland secures qualification for the knockout rounds for the first time against Hungary – a historic success

The Scottish team is pictured during a training session ahead of their crucial Euro 2024 match against Hungary in Stuttgart on 22 June 2023.

The Scottish team training ahead of their crucial 2024 European Championship match against Hungary in Stuttgart on 22 June 2023 | Photo credit: Reuters

Scotland could make history if they defeat Hungary on June 23 and potentially qualify for the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time at Euro 2024.

In eleven previous attempts, eight World Cups and three European Championships, Scotland always failed in the group stage.

As usual, an early exit seemed inevitable when Steve Clarke’s team suffered a humiliating defeat against hosts Germany on the first matchday.

However, a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Switzerland restored faith and kept dreams of qualification alive.

While a win would not guarantee progression, it would almost certainly be enough to either secure second place in Group A or reach the round of 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Clarke said before the game in Germany that his goal was four points.

A clash with Hungary, who have lost their opening two games, appears to offer Scotland’s best chance of winning a first major tournament since 1996.

However, the Hungarians know that they also have to win and hope that three points will be enough to advance.

“The draw was probably with the last two games in mind,” said Scottish midfielder Callum McGregor.

“When you get a bad result, you lose a little perspective. It was probably the manner of the defeat the other day that hurt everyone a little and didn’t look good.

“As a footballer you have to deal with it. You have to try to make it right. We have taken the first step to make it right and we now go into Sunday’s game with the belief that we will give ourselves a really good chance if we play just as well, if not better.”

Shankland Noise

Scotland captain Andy Robertson said on the eve of the tournament that his team could achieve “legendary status” by doing things that no team in the country’s history had ever achieved.

However, they have to overcome adversity to do so.

Ryan Porteous remains suspended after being sent off in the 5-1 defeat to Germany in Munich.

With Kieran Tierney’s injury, Clarke is missing another defender and one of Scotland’s best players.

Despite calls for further substitutions, nine players from Clarke’s squad started both games.

Now he has to decide whether he will stay in Stuttgart or make a tight turnaround after an exhausting 90 minutes against the Swiss.

“We need to recover and show the same energy level, the same pace and the same aggressiveness as we did against Switzerland,” McGregor added.

Tierney’s injury opens the door for a system change.

Clarke opted for his preferred 5-4-1 formation to accommodate both Arsenal’s left-back and Liverpool’s Robertson in the same team.

By switching to a back four, the former West Brom manager could bring in another striker and make room for Bournemouth’s Ryan Christie alongside the midfield four of McGregor, Billy Gilmour, Scott McTominay and John McGinn.

Many of the estimated 200,000-strong Tartan Army who have travelled to Germany are also calling for a change at the front.

Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland was named Scotland’s Player of the Year after scoring 31 goals this season.

However, he barely played a few minutes on the pitch in the first two games as Clarke opted for the additional mobility offered by Che Adams.

Since taking the helm in 2019, Clarke’s loyalty has provided continuity and a club-like team spirit that has taken his country back to two major tournaments after two decades in isolation.

But Scotland may now need a bolder approach to change their stance on the international stage and end an unwanted record.

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