Scotland eye historic Euros progress with McTominay and McGinn leading the charge

Scotland eye historic Euros progress with McTominay and McGinn leading the charge

Is this the year Scotland finally do it? Surely, it is. 

Eight World Cups and three European Championships and never past the group stage, that old millstone wrapped like a tartan scarf.

This time, though, it feels different. Under Steve Clarke, Scotland are a side worthy of their place at Euro 2024. They beat Spain to get there. 

As legendary midfielder Gary McAllister says, Scotland have a better chance than ever to make history. 

If they are to do it, Clarke’s two Big Macs — Scott McTominay and John McGinn — will be key.

In three Euros Scotland have never got past the group stage but it feels different this time

Scotland's huge improvement under manager Steve Clarke has been a remarkable feat

Scotland’s huge improvement under manager Steve Clarke has been a remarkable feat 

Tartan Army punch above their weight 

Yes, Scotland head to the Euros with only one win in their last nine games yet the improvement under Clarke has still been remarkable.

They won five in a row en route to the finals, their best streak in Euro qualifying since 1995, beating Spain and Norway in the process.

And when it comes to matches that matter there have been few better than Clarke’s men in recent times.

Scotland have won 15 of their last 21 competitive games since September 2021 — in that time only Portugal can boast a better win rate in competition. England’s over the same period, meanwhile, is 62 per cent.

The Tartan Army won five in a row en route to the finals, their best streak in Euro qualifying since 1995, beating Spain and Norway in the process

The Tartan Army won five in a row en route to the finals, their best streak in Euro qualifying since 1995, beating Spain and Norway in the process

 Midfield duo their key source of goals

While striker Lawrence Shankland scored in Friday night’s draw against Finland, Clarke’s not blessed with goals up front. 

His forwards’ role is often to bring the two Big Macs — Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay and Aston Villa captain John McGinn — into play. 

As their touch maps from the 3-0 qualification win over Cyprus (right) show, they drive forward from midfield. They scored and assisted in this game and are Clarke’s main goal threat. 

Only four players — and pretty good ones — scored more in qualifying than McTominay while only Harry Kane has more goals and assists for a home nation than McGinn since Clarke’s first game in charge. 

PS – PS They have the perfect lynchpin behind them too in Brighton’s Billy Gilmour. Among midfielders to attempt 1000+ passes in the Premier League last season, only Rodri and Mateo Kovacic had a higher pass completion rate than Gilmour (92.2 per cent).

Will injury crisis blight hopes? 

It’s not been straightforward for Clarke. This is Scotland, after all. Forwards Lyndon Dykes and Liverpool’s Ben Doak were the latest to pull out joining Brentford’s Aaron Hickey, Everton’s Nathan Patterson, Lewis Ferguson and Jacob Brown on the injury list.

So, will they do it? Pessimism about their football team is a national pastime but other than the weight of history and heartbreak — and a minor injury crisis — Scotland have never had a better chance. 

They have the quality. They are in a tough group with Germany, Switzerland and Hungary but, to be frank, the structure means it’s almost harder not to qualify. Four of the six third-placed finishers go through. One win could be enough.

Forwards Lyndon Dykes (above) and Liverpool’s Ben Doak were the latest to pull out with injury

Forwards Lyndon Dykes (above) and Liverpool’s Ben Doak were the latest to pull out with injury

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