Scotland will prepare for the 2024 European Championships with a friendly double-header against Gibraltar and Finland.

Steve Clarke’s side will take on Gibraltar in the Estadio Algarve, Portugal, on Monday, June 3 before a send-off game against Finland at Hampden Park four days later.

It will be the last match action before the Scots head off to Germany for this summer’s Euros where they will face the hosts on June 14 before games against Switzerland and Hungary.

Scotland take on the Netherland and Northern Ireland in two March friendlies while Clarke also confirmed their team base camp for the Euros in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Clarke, assistant John Carver and performance director Graeme Jones visited the base camp last week, which lies at the foot of Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze, and will be the squad’s headquarters for the duration of the campaign.

Scotland will stay at Obermuhle, a 120-room luxury resort that combines modern specification and alpine lifestyle with the tradition of being a family-owned establishment for the last century.

The team training ground is a short walk from the hotel and the delegation were greeted warmly by district administrator Anton Speer and Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s Mayor, Elisabeth Koch.

Clarke told scottishfa.co.uk: “It was important for us to finalise our preparations for Euro 2024 as soon as possible and I’m very pleased to have confirmed our final friendly matches and secured our first-choice base camp for the tournament.

“Garmisch-Partenkirchen will make for a comfortable base for our players and backroom staff for the duration of our stay at the tournament and the warm welcome we have received from the local community so far bodes well for when we are in camp there this summer.

“With Gibraltar and Finland confirmed as the final opposition before we take on Germany in the opening match of the tournament my players and coaching staff can now concentrate on ensuring we are in the best shape possible for it.

“I am particularly pleased that our final match before the tournament will be at Hampden and I am looking forward to experiencing what I am sure will be a raucous atmosphere in front of a full house of Scotland supporters that evening.”

Graeme Jones, Scottish FA performance director, said: “From the moment we qualified, Garmisch-Partenkirchen was our preferred location for team base camp and to be honest, I was more excited that the draw enabled us to have our first pick than I was at playing the opening match.

“The priority is making sure the players have the best preparation possible for the Euros and Obermuhle gives us a perfect balance of first-class facilities and a breathtaking, tranquil setting for the players to focus on the challenges ahead.

“The hotel staff, the Mayor and district administrator could not have been more welcoming during the site visit and now that the base camp is confirmed, we look forward to building up to the Euros starting with our matches against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland in March.”

Scotland boss Steve Clarke is reading nothing into Germany’s struggles heading into Euro 2024, warning the tournament hosts are “always on it” when it comes to major finals.

Scotland will have the eyes of the continent on them on June 14 next year when they take on Germany in the tournament’s opening match in Munich.

Germany failed to get out of their group at the World Cup in Qatar, with a 2-1 defeat to Japan contributing to their exit. A 4-1 loss to the same opponents in a friendly in September cost Hansi Flick his job.

Results have been mixed since, with former Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann succeeding Flick at the helm.

But Clarke does not see Germany as a vulnerable opponent in any way, shape or form. They are three-time Euro winners with a further four World Cup titles to boot.

“When Germany get to the finals of a major tournament they are always on it,” Clarke told the PA news agency.

“I don’t think it will be a poor Germany team, I think it will be a very, very good Germany side.”

Clarke’s team are also up against Hungary and Switzerland in Group A, as they aim to become the first Scotland side to go beyond the first stage of a finals tournament.

“The first thing for us to do is just to prepare properly,” Clarke said.

“Make sure we’re competitive, play as well as we can in the games and then after that we’ll count on the points and see if we’ve got enough.”

Clarke’s team qualified with two matches to spare, finishing second in their group behind Spain but ahead of a Norway side infused with the star quality of Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard.

“I think what impressed me most about this group of players (in qualification) is that they want to be competitive every time they go out there,” he said.

“We want to continue to improve – they feel as though they can improve a little bit more and hopefully between now and next summer, we do improve and we can be very competitive in Germany.”

Steve Clarke savoured the chance to celebrate Scotland’s Euro 2024 qualification with the Hampden crowd after his side rounded off their campaign with a “strange” 3-3 draw against Norway.

Scotland had qualified with two games to spare and finished second behind Spain in Group A after a second consecutive draw ensured they have only lost once in the section.

The players, including injured captain Andy Robertson, did a lap of honour afterwards to mark their achievement.

Clarke said: “It was nice – and nice for the supporters – to say thank you to the team, a nice night for the team and staff to thank the supporters.

“It’s always nice to qualify for a major tournament. Obviously the last one was Covid-restricted so we missed that connection and that feel with the fans.

“It’s great for everyone in the country that we have something to look forward to next summer.”

Clarke’s side twice came from behind in the first half through John McGinn’s penalty and an own goal before Stuart Armstrong netted a well-worked goal to out them in front just before the hour mark.

However, former Celtic winger Mohamed Elyounoussi came off the bench to head home in the 86th minute as Norway scored their third goal from a cross originating from right-back Julian Ryerson.

“It was a strange game,” Clarke said. “I need to go away and analyse it.

“What we have worked really hard at is being competitive, being a competitive team every time we go on to the pitch.

“That’s why I was a little bit disappointed with the first half, I didn’t think we were competitive enough. Much more competitive second half.

“We are Scotland, we have a certain way of playing, we like to play on the front foot.”

A two-goal win would have put Scotland in pot two for the December 2 draw, although they are arguably better off in pot three given they will now avoid the likes of the Netherlands, Italy and Croatia.

“I’m not bothered,” Clarke said. “I don’t know even know who else is in pot three and pot two. I’m sure I will find out when I get to Hamburg.”

Norway head coach Stale Solbakken felt his side should have been ahead at half-time but feels Scotland will pose problems in Germany.

“Overall we were the better team and should have won but it’s not easy, Scotland are always very well organised,” he added.

“They have a great coach and have very disciplined players who know their strengths and limitations. That’s very important – they play to their strengths and don’t pretend to be something else.

“They also have tournament experience so I think they can be a handful for everyone next summer. They also play two systems which is valuable.

“There will be no easy games for those teams who meet Scotland.”

Stale Solbakken admits it was a “big blow” to lose Erling Haaland for Sunday’s dead-rubber Euro 2024 qualifier against Scotland at Hampden – but the Norway manager is confident the Manchester City striker’s injury is not a serious one.

The free-scoring forward withdrew from the squad on Saturday morning after damaging his ankle in the second-half of Thursday’s 2-0 friendly win over Faroe Islands.

“It’s a big blow for any team but we have played without him before, sometimes with success, sometimes without,” said Solbakken, speaking at Hampden on Saturday evening.

“We started the qualification when he was not ready for the first two games, but after that he has played every single game so it was unfortunate for us that he got the small knock on Thursday.

“It’s the movement in his foot that is the problem but it’s not a serious injury. Had it been a final, I don’t know (if he would have been fit to play).

“All parties agree it is probably a little too early (for him to play) but it is not a career-threatening injury.”

When asked why Haaland – a talisman for club and country – was risked in such a low-key match, Solbakken said: “It was his choice. He wanted to play 45 minutes to keep the momentum in a week where we were maybe not training as much. It was his decision.

“There were three players who have played many games and we had conversations with all three of them and Erling’s much preferred choice was to play 45 minutes.”

Many anticipated Sunday’s match being a qualification decider but Scotland’s 2-1 win in Oslo in June, when they scored two goals in the closing minutes to overturn Haaland’s penalty, has proved pivotal.

The Scots are already assured of a place in the finals in Germany and are six points ahead of third-placed Norway, who have only a slim chance of landing a play-off if results elsewhere go their way.

“It was probably the sorest defeat you will ever feel,” said Solbakken, recalling Scotland’s late turnaround in the summer. “I still wake up at night thinking about those last five minutes but that is life.

“If you look back now, those five minutes were very, very damaging. Otherwise the game tomorrow would have been a final. That speaks volumes.

“But we must congratulate Scotland on a great campaign. They have done really, really well, not only in this campaign but also in the years before that.

“They’ve played at a very high level and have also been good at bringing the margins on their side in tight games, which is very important in national football when there are so few games.”

Unless they manage to salvage a Euro 2024 place via a play-off, Norway’s run without major tournament football will extend to 26 years. The Scots ended a 23-year wait when they qualified for the Euros in 2021 and Solbakken feels his nation can draw inspiration from Steve Clarke’s resurgent side.

“Of course we can,” he said. “I think we are quite even. We always play very tight games against each other but they have been better than us with the small margins lately. We need to see if we can find that way too.”

Scotland take on Georgia in their penultimate Euro 2024 qualifier in Tbilisi on Thursday night.

Steve Clarke’s side have already qualified for Germany after winning five of their first six Group A games.

Here are some of the key talking points ahead of the game at the Boris Paichadze Stadium.

Pots not prizes

Scotland are highly unlikely to top the group given they sit on 15 points with Spain, who are seven goals better off and finish with games against Cyprus and Georgia. An unfortunate slip from Aaron Hickey late on in Seville last month led to a second Spanish goal and wiped out Scotland’s head-to-head advantage. However, good results against Georgia and Norway will boost Scotland’s hopes of landing in the second pot of seeds for next month’s Euro 2024 draw as well as regaining momentum after three consecutive defeats.

Breaking the spell

Scotland have twice come unstuck in Tbilisi before – their Euro 2008 and Euro 2016 campaigns suffered fatal blows against Georgia. Having beaten France home and away, Alex McLeish’s side lost 2-0 against a side featuring three teenagers, including 17-year-old goalkeeper Giorgi Makaridze and 17-year-old goalscorer Levan Mchedlidze. Gordon Strachan was also on the end of a defeat in Tbilisi as the hosts frustrated Scotland in a 1-0 win. Despite being unbeaten against qualification rivals Poland and Republic of Ireland, Scotland missed out on a play-off.

A chance to shine

Scotland are without about half a team of likely starters – Angus Gunn, Kieran Tierney, Grant Hanley, Hickey, Andy Robertson and Che Adams are all absent. The game could give the likes of Nathan Patterson, Greg Taylor, Anthony Ralston, the uncapped Josh Doig and late call-up Lawrence Shankland the chance to impress.

Who is in goal?

Clarke gave nothing away on who would replace Gunn, who has only conceded three goals in six qualifiers. Motherwell captain Liam Kelly and Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark are looking for their competitive debuts after both won their first caps in last month’s 4-1 friendly defeat by France. Rangers number two Robby McCrorie replaced Gunn in the squad.

Motivated opponents

Georgia cannot finish in the top two but they can still go to Euro 2024 through the Nations League play-offs. Willy Sagnol’s side were the top ranked team in Group C after winning emphatically away to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, and will take their place in the play-off tournament in March.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke is focused on finishing their Euro 2024 qualification campaign on a high after sealing their place in Germany amid a hat-trick of defeats.

A 2-0 loss in Spain was sandwiched by friendly defeats against England and France, but five wins from their opening five games in Group A proved enough for a second successive qualification for the European Championship finals after the Spaniards won in Norway.

With a five-month international hiatus to follow, Clarke is eager to ensure Scotland come away from their final competitive matches with points against Georgia and Norway before next summer’s tournament in Germany.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s clash in Tbilisi, Clarke said: “The idea with the friendly matches against England and France was to test ourselves against the best and see where we measure up.

“Obviously with the results we had, we still have a bit of work to do. We will try to stay humble, respect our opponents and just try to improve all the time.

“Listen, we want to get back to winning ways. It’s not very often in the reign that I have had, apart from the early stages, that we have had consecutive defeats like we have had recently.

“It would be nice to think in the remaining two games we can pick up more points.

“I have always said we want to get as high a points tally as possible and (we have) two more games to try and do that.”

Scotland have lost their previous two games in Georgia, defeats which ultimately prevented them from qualifying for Euro 2008 and 2016.

Clarke’s side have shown the ability to break such negative runs, for instance securing the first play-off success and ending a 23-year wait for a major tournament appearance.

“Listen, in sport what’s past is past, there is nothing we can do to affect that,” Clarke said of the history in Tbilisi. “All we can do is affect the future, the next game we play.

“We have always tried to improve results no matter who we are playing against.”

Georgia lost 7-1 at home to Spain in September but they beat Cyprus 4-0 in their most recent qualifier and are assured of a Euro 2024 play-off place thanks to a Nations League campaign which included big wins in Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

Clarke said: “When you go away from home against a team like Georgia, it’s going to be a difficult environment, a difficult game for us, because they are a very good side.

“The one game they lost heavily was against Spain and that’s a little bit of an anomaly in recent games, because all their games have been very competitive. And we expect that on Thursday night.”

Clarke is without the likes of Angus Gunn, Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Aaron Hickey and Che Adams, but he hopes players such as Josh Doig and Lawrence Shankland can seize the opportunity that injury list presents.

“Over the course of my tenure I have always tried to look a little bit deeper,” he said.

“There will be some squads like this one where we have a number of players missing. But I always say it’s a chance for someone else.

“If everyone else can do better it makes my selection more difficult going into next year. The selection will be difficult. I have to find the right 23 for next summer.

“For now, some boys are in the squad with the chance to make a big impression, not just on me but the rest of my staff and the rest of the country. Let’s see how they perform in the game.”

Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark and Motherwell captain Liam Kelly are vying for competitive debuts after both played 45 minutes against France to win their first caps.

Clarke, who also has Rangers reserve Robby McCrorie in his squad, was not giving anything away on his stand-in choice.

Speaking from Scotland’s training camp in Antalya, Turkey, he said: “The three goalkeepers have trained very well, as they always do, and between now and kick-off I will obviously have to choose one.”

Liam Cooper insisted Scotland are intent on doing themselves justice at Euro 2024 after failing to win a game in their last tilt at the tournament.

The Scots go into their concluding two qualifiers – away to Georgia on Thursday and at home to Norway on Sunday – having already qualified for the finals in Germany next summer.

Steve Clarke’s men suffered group-stage elimination at Euro 2020 – delayed until 2021 due to Covid – after taking just one point from three games against Czech Republic, England and Croatia.

Leeds defender Cooper – speaking from the Scots’ training base in Turkey ahead of Thursday’s match in Tbilisi – feels they will be better equipped this time to make it to the knockout phase.

“As professionals, I think we put that expectation on ourselves immediately after the last Euros,” he said. “I don’t think we did ourselves justice in that tournament.

“It was a lot of lads’ first taste of a major tournament, including myself, and straight after that we agreed among ourselves that we didn’t really do ourselves justice.

“We’ve got a lot of people, including ourselves, to prove to that we belong there and we can get through the group stages.

“We’ve got an honest bunch of lads and we hold ourselves accountable. We want to be satisfied with the way we performed. We’ve done well in this qualification campaign, to qualify with two games to spare is amazing, but it can’t stop there.

https://x.com/ScotlandNT/status/1724198526597415041?s=20

“To be even more successful, we’ve got to go and do ourselves justice at the Euros. I’m lucky enough to have been at the last Euros, but if the goalposts don’t change once you’ve had a taste of that and you don’t want to go and improve on it next time, then there’s no point in you being here.”

Cooper admits it is a good feeling to go into the last two matches having already qualified but he is adamant the Scots will not be taking things easy over the next week, with top spot in Group A as well as a place in the squad for the finals at stake.

“It’s nice to have qualified with two games to spare, but there’s also that carrot there that if Spain drop points, we can go and win the group,” said the 32-year-old. “That’s our motivation right now. We’ve got to be professional and take our chance if Spain slip up.

“We’ve only got this camp and the next camp to get ourselves in the manager’s thoughts and get in the squad for Germany so that’s also added motivation. We’ve got to put ourselves forward and prove we should be on that plane to Germany.

“I had a taste of that before and it was an amazing experience albeit in difficult times for the world (due to Covid). There were limited people in the stadium so you didn’t get the full experience.

“It was still an amazing experience but I think the Euros next summer will be unbelievable. It’s something you always dream of as a kid so you’ve got to do all you can by playing well and being successful in these next couple of games and into the March camp as well.”

Excitement is building among the Scotland support and players ahead of the draw for the Euros group stage on December 2.

“We’re obviously buzzing for that,” said Cooper. “We can then get booked and our friends and families can start getting booked up.

“It’s been a bit of a nightmare not knowing where we’ll be playing, every person I’ve spoken to has booked about 20 hotels on free cancellation so it will be nice to know where we’re going to be based.

“Once all the logistics of it are sorted out then you can really start to look forward to it. But we’re professionals and we understand there’s a lot of football to be played before then and there’s still a big decision to be made by the manager (regarding squad selection) so there will be no getting too carried away.”

Steve Clarke wants Scotland to use their final Euro 2024 qualifiers against Georgia and Norway to regain their momentum ahead of the finals in Germany next summer.

The Scots initially suspected they might need positive results from their last two games in Group A to qualify so organised a warm-weather training camp in Turkey at the start of next week to give themselves the best possible preparation ahead of their penultimate fixture in Tbilisi on Thursday.

However, after a blistering start to their campaign, they sealed their place at the tournament with two games to spare, so their main priority in the upcoming camp is to spark an upturn in results after successive defeats against England, Spain and France.

“We’ll be doing something similar to what we did when we went to Moldova (in 2021, when they had a warm-weather training camp in Spain), so we’ll leave early, on Sunday night after the games, and we’re going to stop off in Turkey and have a couple of days of hopefully warm weather there to break up the journey,” Clarke said at a press conference on Wednesday after naming his squad for the double-header.

“We identified these two games – Georgia away and Norway at home – as crucial games in the qualification process, but credit to the players, they’ve already qualified, so the games are not quite as crucial.

“But when you strip it back, we’ve lost the last three games, so we want to pick up a little bit of momentum going into the tournament next summer, so these two games are very important for us.

“It will be good to come here to finish the campaign with a home game against Norway and hopefully a good performance.

“It will be a chance for the crowd to thank the players and a chance for the players to thank the crowd. It will be a bit of a poor night if we don’t win the game, so let’s make sure we win the game.”

The 2-0 defeat by Spain in Seville saw Scotland relinquish top spot in Group A on goal difference. Spain finish away to Cyprus and at home to Georgia.

“I think to finish top is going to be very difficult,” said Clarke. “As I sit here now, it’s difficult for me to see Spain dropping any points from their last two games.

“We’ll just focus on ourselves and, if we can finish on the same points as Spain and they manage to top the group by an unfortunate slip from Aaron Hickey in the 2-0 defeat by Spain in Seville, we’ll take that.”

Scotland are missing four established starters for this month’s double-header, with goalkeeper Angus Gunn, captain Andrew Robertson, and fellow defenders Kieran Tierney and Aaron Hickey all injured.

Rangers defender John Souttar and Millwall forward Kevin Nisbet are the other notable absentees following their recent fitness issues.

Uncapped duo Josh Doig and Robby McCrorie, both of whom have been in previous camps, have been included, along with Celtic right-back Anthony Ralston.

“This is probably the toughest it’s been in terms of injuries in the last year or so,” said Clarke. “I remember in September last year we had to go to Ukraine in the Nations League with pretty much a shadow squad, but we dug in and got the result required.

“That’s what we’ll do this time. We can talk about the ones who are not here, but I always prefer to talk about the ones that are going to be here, so fingers crossed there are no more injuries before the squad meet up on Sunday.”

With first-choice Gunn missing with an injury he sustained for Norwich against Leeds last month, Motherwell’s Liam Kelly and Hearts’ Zander Clark, both of whom made their international bows in the friendly defeat by France last month, will vie to make their competitive debuts over the next two games.

“Obviously one of them is going to get a chance to play in the games coming up, so it’s a big camp for them,” said Clarke. “They know they have to impress.

“They’ve been in a lot of squads so they understand it and know the expectation around them. Hopefully they train well and are ready to play.”

Clarke included uncapped Verona left-back Doig after he was initially named in Scot Gemmill’s under-21 squad this week.

“Josh is doing well in Serie A, playing pretty regularly for his club,” said Clarke.

“He’s a good, athletic player who gets up and down the line. It will be nice to see how he’s improved and how he fits into the camp since we last saw him last September.”

Clarke insists he has not allowed his attention to turn towards his final 23-man squad for the Euros just yet.

“It won’t be a headache, it will be a difficult choice,” he said. “There’s obviously going to be a lot of people that want to be there.

“For me, it’s about not thinking too far ahead to picking the 23 because as this camp shows, injuries can turn up at any time.

“There’s a long way to go before the final squad is picked. Every game between now and the squad selection for the Euros next summer is a chance for somebody to impress so hopefully they take their chances.”

Liam Kelly reflected on the “best moment” of his life after eventually making his Scotland debut in the 4-1 defeat by France in Lille on Tuesday night.

The 27-year-old Motherwell goalkeeper was first called up to the senior squad four years ago and had to patiently await his chance, which came when Steve Clarke rested number one Angus Gunn and started with Kelly before bringing on Hearts keeper and fellow debutant Zander Clark at the interval.

It was a sore night for the Scots however, despite taking an early lead through Billy Gilmour’s first goal in senior football.

France defender Benjamin Pavard scored twice with headers as a star-studded home side fought back.

Skipper Kylian Mbappe added a third from the spot before the break and substitute Kingsley Coman hammered a fourth past Clark in the 70th minute to seal a convincing friendly win for the superior hosts.

“The best moment of your life, isn’t it?” said Kelly when asked about his first appearance for his country.

“I played for every age group with Scotland up until now and I have been in a lot of squads along with big Zander so I was just delighted to get that moment eventually.

“I’m so grateful to the manager to get that chance and I am delighted for big Zander as well because we have been in this together from the start.

“During the game you can’t think about anything else or else you get punished, so maybe now and over the next few days it will start to sink in a wee bit but yes, the best moment of your life playing for your country.

“Me and Zander have been in the squad a long time, you take any chance you can get.

“As I said I am really grateful to the manager to give me that chance.

“He didn’t have to do it, he could have played big Angus again so I am over the moon and thankful he gave me that opportunity.

“I think I done OK in the game so it all went to plan, apart from the scoreline.”

Clark, 31, was similarly delighted to make his debut as replacement for long-time buddy Kelly.

He said: “As a kid you always dream of that moment and it was a great feeling and a special occasion as well.

“I am buzzing for Liam as well, I have known him since we were kids and a lot of hard work has gone into it.

“For us to get the first on the same night is a special moment.

“It was tough, they had stars all over the place.

“But we had good spells and a great finish by Billy and it was unfortunate to come away with such a heavy defeat but pleased with the effort we put in.”

Steve Clarke has told his Scotland players to “stop this run” of defeats next month after losing 4-1 to France in Lille.

The Scots went into the friendly knowing they had qualified for the 2024 European Championships after Spain beat Norway at the weekend to ensure a top-two finish in Group A.

Scotland had lost 2-0 to Spain last week on the back of a 3-1 loss to England at Hampden Park in the 150th Heritage Anniversary match and the French were even classier.

Clarke made eight changes from Seville – goalkeepers Liam Kelly and Zander Clark played a half each on their debuts.

Scotland stunned the home side when midfielder Billy Gilmour guided in the opener after 11 minutes – his first ever senior goal.

However, France defender Benjamin Pavard scored two headers, skipper Kylian Mbappe added a third from the spot before the break after a VAR intervention saw referee Tobias Stieler judge Scotland defender Liam Cooper had held Olivier Giroud and substitute Kingsley Coman hammered in a fourth.

After victory in their first five Euro qualifiers, Scotland have lost three in a row and Clarke wants to get that winning feeling back in the final two qualifiers against Georgia next month before the final game against Norway.

He said: “We can take away the memory of the qualification but we lost two games in the camp.

“We don’t like losing. I don’t want them to be comfortable losing or happy to lose.

“We spoke about that after the game. It is important we set our standards higher than that.

“We have lost three in a row now and I have asked them to make sure that when we got to Georgia that we stop this run.

“We want to finish on the same points as Spain so the target is to finish with 21 point which will make it a good campaign.”

Clarke, who was “happy” with his team selection, acknowledged the superiority of the home side.

He said: “I thought we started the game really well, the first 15 minute was good and we got ourselves in front.

“To concede a goal from a corner was disappointing because we know France can score from open play and we try not to give goals away from set plays.

“The third goal – I don’t think VAR should have got involved in the decision, it was soft and when the referee goes there he has to be strong to stick with his original decision.

“Both players were at it and that takes the game away from us.

“The second half was OK but France are always a threat with their pace and power and quality.

“So lots to learn, lots to improve. We know we are not at that level yet.

“It is level we are going to strive to get to and the harder we strive the better team we will be.”

After sealing qualification to Euro 2024 with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands on Friday, France boss Didier Deschamps was happy to finish the camp off with a convincing win

He said: “It was a very good week, When you win you are always happy.

“The most important thing was against the Netherlands on Friday night and the fact that we have shown so much quality tonight as well, it is a great satisfaction for us.

“We created lots of chances against a team that can defend pretty well and has a lot of qualities. So we are very happy.”

Scotland gave France an early fright before suffering a chastening 4-1 loss to their classy hosts in Lille.

The Scots went into the friendly knowing they had qualified for the 2024 European Championships at the weekend after Spain beat Norway to ensure Steve Clarke’s side a top-two finish in Group A.

Clarke took the opportunity to utilise his squad, giving a debut to Liam Kelly among eight changes from last week’s game in Seville and they stunned the home side when midfielder Billy Gilmour guided in the opener after 11 minutes – his first ever senior goal.

However, France defender Benjamin Pavard scored twice with headers by way of a rapid response and skipper Kylian Mbappe added a third from the spot before the break.

Substitute Kingsley Coman hammered in a fourth in the 70th minute to seal a commanding win for the superior home side.

After winning their first five Euro qualifiers, Scotland have lost three games in a row and Clarke will want to get that winning feeling back in the final two qualifiers against Georgia and Norway next month.

In addition to Kelly’s introduction to international football in The Decathlon Arena Stade Pierre Mauroy, Clarke also brought in defenders Nathan Patterson, Greg Taylor and Liam Cooper, midfielders Kenny McLean, Gilmour and Lewis Ferguson and striker Che Adams.

It was always going to be a tough test against Les Blues, who qualified comfortably for Euro 2024 by winning their first six qualifiers.

Boss Didier Deschamps also freshened his side up from the 2-1 win over the Netherlands last Friday.

Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann kept their places while Ousmane Dembele and all-time leading scorer Olivier Giroud came back into the side.

The kick-off was delayed for around 10 minutes due to the long queues at the stadium amid extra security measures put in place after two Swedish nationals were shot dead in Brussels the previous evening.

There was a minute’s silence before the game to commemorate that incident and it was a low-key start to the game on a pitch still showing markings from its use in the Rugby World Cup, before the Scots took an unexpected lead.

France defender Eduardo Camavinga cut out a pass from Gilmour inside the box but with a poor touch gave it straight back to the unmarked Brighton midfielder, who curled the ball low past goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

However, there was little time for the Tartan Army to enjoy the landmark goal as a Griezmann corner from the left five minutes later was all too easily glanced past Kelly by Inter Milan centre-back Pavard.

A refocused France side took control of the game and Mbappe skipped past Jack Hendry before crossing for Pavard again to head past Kelly from close range.

The visitors were struggling to get up the pitch and in the 40th minute France were awarded a penalty after referee Tobias Stieler went pitchside at the behest of VAR and judged Cooper had held Giroud inside the penalty area, with Mbappe stepping up to send the penalty past the diving Kelly, who got close but not close enough.

The Motherwell keeper did not look great moments later when he fumbled a shot from Dembele but the lurking Mbappe could not capitalise.

Hearts keeper Zander Clark replaced Kelly at the start of the second half to make his debut and Jacob Brown and John Souttar would take over from Adams and Cooper. Giroud and Dembele made way for Marcus Thuram and Coman and in the 70th minute the latter thrashed a shot high past Clark after Griezmann had volleyed against the bar.

A low drive from Brown in a rare Scotland attack was pushed past the post by Maignan and the corner came to nothing before Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong came on for Gilmour and McLean.

Thuram rattled Clark’s crossbar with a drive and at the other Maignan made saves from Armstrong’s volley and Brown’s header but the game was already well gone for Scotland.

Scotland’s Euro 2024 place was secured on Sunday night by Norway’s defeat to Spain as Steve Clarke’s side continue to impress.

Having also reached the Covid-delayed Euro 2020 finals, Clarke has re-established Scotland’s men’s team on the international stage and here, the PA news agency looks at their major tournament record.

Back in the big time

Clarke said after Spain’s win in Oslo on Sunday: “To qualify for successive Euros after more than 20 years is phenomenal.”

Scotland reached four out of five major tournaments from the 1990 to 1998 World Cups. That included the 1992 and 1996 European Championships – their only appearances in the Euro finals prior to 2020.

They had been present at six World Cups out of seven to that point including five in a row from 1974, the only exception being 1994.

They have since missed six World Cups in a row, and the first five Euros of the new century before Clarke oversaw their resurgence.

Alongside their Euro qualifications they have been promoted twice from League C in the inaugural 2018-19 Nations League to the top tier for 2024-25.

The trip to Germany for Euro 2024 will also allow the Tartan Army to travel to a tournament in numbers, after Euro 2020 was played under Covid restrictions with two of Scotland’s games taking place at Hampden Park and the other at Wembley.

Best record in prospect

Clarke’s side are set for their best ever record in a qualifying campaign, for either a European Championship or World Cup.

Before losing 2-0 to Spain last Thursday, they won their first five games – scoring 12 goals and conceding only one, an Erling Haaland penalty in the 2-1 win over Norway.

Top spot is still to be decided between Scotland and Spain but next month’s games against Georgia and Norway are, relatively speaking, dead rubbers with Scotland already qualified.

One win would make it six out of eight games, a 75 per cent rate that would be Scotland’s best in a qualifying campaign – beating their seven wins out of 10 en route to both Euro 96 and then France 98.

Should they win both, it will be only the fifth time they have won seven or more games in qualifying with all the previous examples coming in campaigns of at least 10 games. They narrowly missed out on Euro 2008, with eight wins from 12 including a double over France, and last year’s World Cup when they won seven of 11 before losing a play-off semi-final to Ukraine.

Chance to break new ground

Having qualified, the next target will be to make it out of a major tournament group stage for the first time.

Scotland’s three previous trips to Euro finals have brought just two wins and two draws from nine games, their best return coming in 1996 when they beat Switzerland and drew with the Netherlands, who then eliminated them on goals scored only thanks to Patrick Kluivert’s consolation in a 4-1 defeat to England.

They have only four wins in 23 games at World Cup finals and have never won more than once at a single major tournament.

The expansion of the final tournament to 24 teams, introduced in 2016, increases the chances of making it through the group, with all six winners and runners-up joined by four third-placed teams in the last 16.

Four points has been enough to get through at both of the 24-team tournaments to date, with Northern Ireland and Portugal in 2016 and Denmark and Ukraine last time out advancing with three. Scotland propped up Group D on one point at Euro 2020.

Scotland could qualify for the 2024 European Championship when Norway host Spain in Oslo on Sunday night and unsurprisingly Erling Haaland is a central figure in the fixture.

Steve Clarke’s side lost 2-0 to La Roja in Seville on Thursday night and their first defeat after five Group A wins left them three points ahead of Luis de la Fuente’s men, having played a game more.

Scotland face France in a friendly in Lille on Tuesday night but in essence, if Norway fail to beat Spain then the Scots will be appearing at their second successive Euros, while there are two fixtures next month, Georgia away and Norway at Hampden Park, which offer opportunities to clinch qualification.

Norway, who lost 2-1 at home to the Scots in June with Haaland scoring from the penalty spot, beat Cyprus 4-0 in Larnaca on Thursday with the Manchester City superstar scoring a double to make it 27 goals in 27 appearances for his national team.

De la Fuente was quoted in Marca.com praising his defence as they prepare to come up against the Norwegian goal machine.

He said: “We will look for the best version of all, with concentration to try to stop the attacks of Norway.

“We know the importance of Haaland, but he is not the only one. There is no Haaland plan. Haaland is a dynamic attacking specialist, but I’m delighted with the work of my centre-backs.

“We will try to counteract those characteristics, not only Haaland, and we will try to minimise the talent of these players. In defence, against Scotland and Norway, we have dominated the situation.”

The only blip in the qualifying campaign for Spain, this summer’s Nations League winners, was the 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park in March and they will qualify for Germany with a win in Oslo.

Norway have no margin for error in their quest to reach Euro 2024 and coach Stale Solbakken was quoted in marca.com as acknowledging the difficulty of the task they face.

He said: “Yes, the situation of the group for us is a disappointment. Why? It’s as simple as the fact that our situation is extremely difficult to be in the European Championship.”

Looking back at lessons from the defeat in Malaga, he said: “We learned that we can play, create chances, be alive for 81 minutes.

“Spain is always one of the best, always with the ball and in aggressiveness when they don’t have it.”

Angus Gunn insists Scotland still have eyes on topping their group after the 2-0 defeat by Spain on Thursday night delayed Euro 2024 qualification.

After winning their first five qualifiers, including a 2-0 win over the Spanish at Hampden Park in March, the Scots came up short in Seville after a controversial VAR call ruled out Scott McTominay’s terrific free-kick just before the hour mark.

Dutch referee Serdar Gozubuyuk was sent to check his pitchside monitor and he ruled an infringement by Scotland defender Jack Hendry, with some confusion as to whether it was for a foul on goalkeeper Unai Simon or offside.

Alvaro Morata headed in after 73 minutes and substitute Oihan Sancet, making his debut, added a second with four minutes or normal time remaining to leave Steve Clarke’s men three points ahead of La Roja at the top of Group A having played a game more.

Scotland face France in a friendly in Lille next Tuesday while Spain take on third-placed Norway in Oslo two days earlier and if the Norwegians drop points, Scotland’s place in Germany next summer will be secured before games away at Georgia and home to Norway in November.

Norwich keeper Gunn, 27, remains confident and he said: “We have put ourselves in an unbelievable position.

“From our point of view we have done a lot of the hard work early on in the group and we want to finish it off in the right way.

“We want to top the group as well so we have two more games and it might happen on Sunday but even if it does, we go away to Georgia and still try to win this group.

“I will probably watch it on Sunday. If it happens, it happens but we still have two more games.

“We have put ourselves in a good position and if it does happen on Sunday we deserve it.”

The Scots had put up a sturdy defensive display against this summer’s Nations League winners and it looked like they might be on their way to a smash-and-grab win when McTominay’s free-kick from near the byline flew into the net.

Gunn believes the decision to rule it out lifted the Spanish fans and gave the home side the boost to go on and clinch the three points.

He said: “We thought we went ahead and that was an unbelievable feeling at the time and it was gutting when it got chalked off.

“I thought we dealt with it quite well but I think it gave them more of a boost.

“Their crowd celebrated it like a goal and I think they got their tails up a little but which we had to deal with.

“I think we kept our emotions quite well even though there wasn’t much clarity around the decision, that was the most disappointing thing.

“But they are a top team and they went up the other end and scored and after that the momentum was with them.

“We are disappointed with the result.

“But I said, we put ourselves in the position where we are still top of the group, still looking strong and hopefully still able to qualify soon.”

John McGinn insists there is more to come from Scotland as they sit on the cusp of qualifying for a second successive European Championship.

Steve Clarke’s men have won their first five Group A qualifiers, including a 2-0 victory over Thursday’s opponents Spain at Hampden Park last March.

Scotland are top of the group, six points ahead of Spain having played a game more, and Aston Villa midfielder McGinn is confident about his country’s future.

He said: “There’s plenty more to come. We’re all at a good age. We’re getting more and more experience of these games.

“The great thing for us is there’s a couple of great young players bubbling away in the background that could come and improve us.

“It’s a really exciting time to be a Scotland player. The fans are here regardless of the results, but we’re now giving them some success which we’re enjoying. Hopefully we can carry that on.

“When you come back up the road you hear about the positive impact you’re having on the whole country. Everyone is behind the team again.

“We need to be better (than the win over Spain). We’re away from home, a team is stronger at home. It wasn’t as hot in Glasgow in March.

“We need to be aggressive, it’s in our nature as a country. Hard working, determined, we’ll fight for every ball.

“We need to get the balance right. We need to be physical and aggressive, but we’ve got some great players as well. At the Spain game, we showed good moments of quality.”

McGinn was not in the mood to get into a verbal battle with Spain captain Rodri, who claimed after the defeat in Hampden that the way Scotland played was “rubbish”.

He said: “It doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve probably lost count of the amount of trophies he’s won since that game.

“There’s not much we can say to him. He’ll have said things in the heat of the moment, but it’s gone now.

“He’s a world-class player who we all respect as a squad, and I think the country should follow.”

Page 2 of 4
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.