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Euros: Steve Clarke's Scotland revolution in full flow

Major tournament football wasn't something Scotland fans were concerned with for a generation, but Steve Clarke now has the Tartan Army on course for back-to-back European Championship appearances.

Scotland's presence at the delayed Euro 2020 showpiece ended a long wait for major tournament football that stretched back to the World Cup of France '98.

There was an outpouring of Scottish relief to see their team back on the grand stage, an experience that peaked with a battling scoreless draw against England at Wembley in June 2021.

Though it would prove to be their only point at those finals, Scotland had got the taste for it and, in Clarke, they have a manager that fully believes they should be regulars at such parties.

After Friday's impressive cruise to a 3-0 victory in Cyprus made it five wins from five in qualifying Group A, Scotland are within touching distance of stamping their ticket to Euro 2024 in Germany. 

What2024 Euros
WhenFriday 14th June - Sunday 14th July 2024
How to watchBBC, ITV
OddsEngland 9/2, France 9/2, Germany 6/1, Spain 9/1, Portugal 10/1

Impressive win in Larnaca has Scots in box seat

Despite winning their first four games, a run headlined by a fully meritorious 2-0 Hampden Park success against Spain in March, many forecasters had the Scots down for a tough night in Larnaca where souring temperatures were expected to complicate matters.

Nothing could have been further from the truth as goals in the opening half hour from Scott McTominay, Ryan Porteous and John McGinn set up a straightforward win for Clarke's side.

It means Scotland need just two points from their remaining three qualifiers - away to Spain and Georgia, then at home against Norway - to guarantee their presence in Germany next summer.

On current form, it would be brave to bet against such an outcome. They are now 1/12 to finish in the Top 2 and trading at 9/4 to win the group. 

Goalscorer McGinn remarked after the win in Cyprus: "Only our wee country could mess it up from here, so we need to stay calm." 

That may be true, but in all probability, Scotland's army of followers are likely looking at the logistics of getting across the continent next June.

Generation of disappointment being erased

The late Craig Brown enjoyed nearly a decade in charge of Scotland's national side after Andy Roxburgh had guided them to their first ever Euros in 1992.

Brown took them to Euro '96 in England where an opening draw with the Netherlands was pleasing, but they lost out to the Auld Enemy at Wembley, as Paul Gascoigne scored a memorable goal for the Three Lions.

Ally McCoist's winner in the final game against Switzerland left them locked on four points with the Dutch but Scotland exited on goals scored. 

Two years later and the Tartan Army descended on Paris for the opening game at France '98 against the mighty Brazil. They were a goal down early but John Collins dragged them level from the penalty spot before half-time and only an unfortunate own-goal from Tom Boyd 15 minutes from the end broke their resistance. 

A stalemate with Norway followed and the 0-3 loss to Morocco in Saint-Etienne would prove to be Scotland's last game at a major tournament for 23 long years.

There were some positive times under the likes of Walter Smith, Craig Levein and Gordon Strachan but Scotland continued to come up short. Clarke, the former West Brom, Reading and Kilmarnock boss, has bridged that gap and the 60-year-old is not resting on his laurels.

Stellar crop flowers for Scotland 

More often than not in the international game, when it comes to smaller nations, they are required to seize their moments when a quality crop of players comes along. 

The Republic of Ireland did so with Roy Keane, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane; while Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey were massive factors in Wales' long tournament famine ending. 

Scotland are making hay while being served by a deep pool of quality operators. 

Andy Robertson is a key cog in Liverpool's wheel. Brentford defender Aaron Hickey is emerging as a key component and, while Kieran Tierney has been outcast by Arsenal, he too is vital to Scotland. 

Aston Villa captain McGinn is a gem in a midfield that also includes Manchester United's Scott McTominay, Celtic captain Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour of Brighton – while Stuart Armstrong, Lewis Ferguson and Ryan Christie are hovering with intent. 

A top-end striker is perhaps missing but in the likes of Lydon Dykes and Che Adams, the Scots are assured of graft. 

It's a heady mix, and with Friday's goalscorer Porteous (24) as well as Nathan Patterson (21), Gilmour (22) and Hickey (21) all joining McGinn, McTominay, Dykes, Adams, Tierney and Robertson in their 20s, Scotland fans have a right to feel this journey has plenty more to run.

Coming of age under Clarke's watch

That crop of players are very much coming of age under their national team boss. McTominay's impact at Manchester United has been restricted under Erik ten Hag, but the midfielder has been on fire for Scotland in recent times. 

The opener in Larnaca was his sixth goal for Scotland in five qualifying games and he has become a colossus for his country.

He got both goals in March as Scotland achieved their first competitive victory over Spain for 39 years.

Paired with La Roja and Norway in Group A, plenty would have forecast this as a tough assignment for the Scots.

Instead, they'll head for Spain next month knowing a positive result could seal Euro 2024 qualification with two games to spare. 

Even should their momentum be checked in Seville, they have two more games to get the points on the board and, despite McGinn's admirable caution, Scotland don't look like they'll mess it up from here. 

Indeed, Scotland's qualification could be assured without them kicking another competitive ball, as they will be guaranteed a top-two finish should Norway and Georgia share the spoils in Oslo on Tuesday.

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