With Three Matches Left, Can Scotland Win Euro Group A?
Scotland’s history in European Championship qualifying hasn’t been something to write home about. Out of 14 previous editions entered, the Tartan Terriers have only qualified three times.
In 1992, Andy Roxburgh was the first Scottish national manager to achieve the feat. His squad won its group containing the likes of Switzerland, Romania and Bulgaria to reach the tournament in Sweden. Four years later, Craig Brown managed Scotland to second place and his team made the trip across the Cheviot Hills to the England finals.
Since those successive Euro appearances, there has only been one further qualification success. Current manager Steve Clarke led Scotland to third in its qualifying group in 2020. On this occasion, it took successive penalty shootout wins over Israel and Serbia in the playoffs to progress.
After replacing Alex McLeish in 2019, Clarke has turned Scottish fortunes around. He has a win percentage of over 50% in his 47 matches at the helm. This makes Clarke the only Scottish national manager with over 40 matches in charge to win more than half of them.
Steve Clarke and his squad are on the brink of making the 2024 UEFA European Championship in Germany. Scotland has experienced an unbeaten qualifying run of five wins, including victories over Spain and Norway. This means that, with three matches remaining, the Scots need only a single point to qualify for Germany. As things stand, only Scotland themselves, and potentially Norway, have a chance of spoiling the party.
Can Scotland win their qualifying group though?
It will take a brave bettor to be sure of Scottish Group A success at this stage of the qualifying campaign. Scotland’s three remaining fixtures aren’t easy ones and the odds at online betting sites included on a comprehensive overview here reflect this. Many bookies list Scotland as second favourites at 11/4 behind Spain who are odds-on favourites at 1/3 at the time of writing. Several scenarios might still play out, and choosing the right ones could mean quite the windfall at the bookies’ expense.
The favourites Spain are unlikely to underestimate the boys in blue in Seville on 12 October. It will take a top effort from Andy Robertson’s team to secure a victory there with this fixture likely to determine the group winners. Spain are currently six points behind Scotland with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.
Even a draw against the Spaniards will make Scotland favourites to top the group, and give the Tartan Terriers the point needed to qualify. This would take the pressure off going into a tricky away fixture against Georgia in Tbilisi on 16 November. Writing off the Georgians at home is dangerous. The fervent home support and the likes of Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in their ranks means no match there is easy.
Should the Scots fail to take any points against Spain, the Tbilisi fixture will grow in importance. Depending on Norway’s result against the Spaniards in Oslo on 15 October, Scotland may still need a point to qualify from the group.
Alternatively, a positive result for Norway against Spain could change things. A Georgia win then may see the Scots winning Group A by beating Norway at home three days later. Whatever the case, Steve Clarke will want to qualify before Erling Haaland, Martin Odegaard and Norway arrive in Glasgow.
Whichever scenarios play out, there will be a buzz at Hampden Park on 19 November. The Tartan Army could be celebrating qualification and anticipating a potential group-topping achievement. They could also be nervously but vociferously egging their team on towards earning the point required to qualify for Germany.
There is also a chance, however, that the match could be a dead rubber. It is likely that Scotland will qualify before stepping out onto Hampden Park for the final time in the qualifying campaign.
Scotland’s away result against Spain and the outcome of the latter’s tough fixture in Oslo could define matters. Depending on these results, the Scots may be playing to top Euro Group A when the whistle blows to start the match against Norway.