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Fan view: Euros fever has given Scotland’s crucial World Cup qualifiers the feel that they’re just the warm-up

Scotland's John McGinn (centre) celebrates with Scott McTominay (left) after scoring their side's second goal of the game during the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifying match at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Picture date: Thursday March 25, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Scotland. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the Scottish FA. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Scotland's John McGinn (centre) celebrates with Scott McTominay (left) after scoring their side's second goal of the game during the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifying match at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Picture date: Thursday March 25, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Scotland. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the Scottish FA. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

Rarely can a World Cup qualifying campaign have begun with such little fanfare across Scotland.

Even in the depths of our national team’s incapacity, the sight of a group table filled with zeroes has had us dreaming, with increasing degrees of wildness, that they will ascend it to be heroes.

But with the generation-long wait to see our nation represented at a major tournament entering its final weeks, even these most important of qualification fixtures have assumed the feel of warm-up events.

And indeed, Steve Clarke’s agonised-over team selection looked at least as inspired by the desire to explore options for the Euros as by the immediate task of banking points towards Qatar.

Steve Clarke.

It is a one-off consequence of the emergency rejigging of an international calendar in which tournaments would never overlap in such a fashion, and to an extent it is an unfortunate one.

On paper this was just about as kind a group as Scotland could have imagined being placed in, and, had it been the normal run of things, the opportunity to harness the euphoria of Euro 2020 participation and make a fast start to it could have built the sort of momentum unseen on our turf this century.

Imagine Hampden full to capacity with supporters fresh from watching the team progress, on home soil, into the knockout phase of a senior international competition for the very first time, loudly welcoming that side back into action and roaring them through one of the toughest – and thus by definition, one of the most significant and important – matches on the road to the World Cup.

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