Euro 2024: Scotland in shot at history against Hungary

Victory would not guarantee progress but would almost certainly be enough either for second place in Group A or to be one of the four best third-placed sides who reach the last 16.
Scotland's head coach Steve Clarke (L) & Hungary's head coach Marco Rossi
Scotland's head coach Steve Clarke (L) & Hungary's head coach Marco Rossi (Photo | AFP)

STUTTGART: History awaits Scotland if they can beat Hungary on Sunday and potentially seal qualification for the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time at Euro 2024.

In 11 previous attempts, at eight World Cups and three Euros, Scotland have always fallen at the group stage.

A familiar early exit looked on the cards when Steve Clarke's men suffered an opening night humiliation at the hands of hosts Germany.

However, a battling 1-1 draw against Switzerland has re-instilled belief and kept dreams of qualification alive.

Victory would not guarantee progress but would almost certainly be enough either for second place in Group A or to be one of the four best third-placed sides who reach the last 16.

Clarke said before a ball was kicked in Germany that he was targeting four points.

A clash with Hungary, who have lost their two opening games, appears to offer Scotland's best chance of a first win at a major tournament since 1996.

However, the Hungarians know they also have to win and hope three points is enough to carry them through.

"When the draw was made you were probably targeting the last two games," said Scotland midfielder Callum McGregor.

“When you get a bad result, perspective goes out the window a little bit. It was probably the manner of the defeat the other night which made everyone feel a bit sore and not great.

"As footballers, you have to deal with that. You have to try to put it right. We made the first step of putting it right and we arrive into the game on Sunday now with belief that if we play equally as well, if not better, we give ourselves a right good chance."

Shankland clamour

Scotland captain Andy Robertson said on the eve of the tournament that this squad could achieve "legendary status" by going where no team has before in the nation's history.

Yet, they will have to overcome adversity to do so.

Ryan Porteous remains banned after being sent-off in the 5-1 thrashing dished out by Germany in Munich.

Injury to Kieran Tierney has robbed Clarke of another defender and one of Scotland's best players.

Despite clamour for more changes, nine of Clarke's squad have started both games.

He now must decide whether to stick or twist in Stuttgart with a tight turnaround after an energy sapping 90 minutes against the Swiss.

“We have to recover and bring the same energy level and the same tempo and the same aggression as we did against Switzerland," added McGregor.

Tierney's injury opens the door for a change of system.

Clarke stumbled upon his preferred 5-4-1 formation to accomodate both the Arsenal left-back and Liverpool's Robertson in the same side.

A switch to a back four would allow the former West Brom boss to include an extra forward player and make room for Bournemouth's Ryan Christie alongside the midfield four of McGregor, Billy Gilmour, Scott McTominay and John McGinn.

Many of the estimated 200,000 Tartan Army that have travelled to Germany are also calling for a change up front.

Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland won player of the year awards in Scotland after scoring 31 goals this season.

Yet, he has had barely a few minutes on the pitch in the opening two games as Clarke has opted for the extra mobility offered by Che Adams.

Since taking charge in 2019, Clarke's loyalty has fostered continuity and a club-like team spirit that has brought his country back to two major tournaments after two decades in the wilderness.

But a bolder approach may now be what Scotland need to change their narrative on the international stage and end an unwanted record.

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