Having emerged from a qualifying group with Spain and Norway, Steve Clarke’s team have high hopes of reaching knockout stage

John McGinn has risen from humble beginnings in Clydebank to become the darling of the Tartan Army. Photograph: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


Can Scotland go where they have never been before, by emerging from the groups at a major tournament?

When qualifying from a section that included Spain and Norway, hopes were high of that very scenario. Yet Steve Clarke’s then went on a run of seven games without a win (before a laboured win against Gibraltar); defeats to France, England, the Netherlands and Spain were understandable; Northern Ireland less so. For the first time in a while, they looked bereft.

That blunting of confidence may do Scotland no harm. Cocky Scots rarely prevail. In 1978 the team was roared off to the World Cup and flopped. Clarke has built a competent side who should believe they can finish above Hungary and Switzerland but remain well short of the section’s marquee name, Germany, in terms of collective ability.

Scotland are rarely flamboyant, but play in a solid, well-drilled system. Clarke and his squad must have learned from the last Euros, where they felt they failed to do themselves justice. The left side is their strong suit, thanks to Andy Robertson’s marauding and Kieran Tierney’s breaking of lines. Scott McTominay, often marginalised at club level, has Clarke’s implicit trust. Scotland have an abundance of riches in central midfield, which needs to offset the lack of a top-class striker.

Right-back is a problem area. Aaron Hickey would have played there but a serious hamstring injury has ruled out the Brentford man. Nathan Patterson, Clarke’s Plan B, has also been forced on to the sidelines. This has presented an opportunity for Bristol City’s Ross McCrorie, although Anthony Ralston of Celtic has moderately more international experience.

Scotland’s class of 2024 is well capable of breaking its finals misery but must be at their best to do so.