It would have been hard to imagine the Tartan Army’s thoughts would have been anywhere other than Hampden on Tuesday.
But thanks to a quite remarkable qualifying campaign under Steve Clarke Scotland’s 150th celebration friendly against England at the National Stadium feels like the warm-up to the main event.
Five wins out of five means Scotland lead Group A comfortably.
A draw in Olso between Norway and Georgia at the same time as the Auld Enemy meet in Glasgow means Scotland are off to Germany next summer for the Euro 2024 finals.
It’s ridiculous really but no less than Clark or this remarkable squad of players deserves.
An entire generation of Scotland supporters have been raised believing the finals of major tournaments is a dream to be chased and players were harangued for falling short.
Thanks to Clarke the only emotion coming Scotland’s way is love – and boy do they deserve it.
International doldrums lasted decades
You really need to put that into context to appreciate just how incredible the turnaround in the national team’s fortunes have been under the former Kilmarnock boss.
Following the late Craig Brown’s feat of leading Scotland to the finals of the World Cup in France back in 1998, Scotland then failed to qualify for the finals of 10 major tournaments in a row – five Euros and five World Cups.
Clarke changed all that in 2020 by guiding the country to the finals of Euro 2020. In typical fashion, the Covid pandemic meant we had to wait another year to celebrate being at the big party.
That achievement was so monumental that Scotland fans thought they were about to boogie all the way to the World Cup finals in Qatar last year, only to fall short in an emotional play-off to Ukraine.
The response to that setback has been nothing short of sensational.
Something feels different about this group of players
Friday’s 3-0 win in Cyprus ensured the 100% record remains intact. Only France and Portugal can boast having the same qualifying record after five matches.
That in itself is quite the feat but considering all three goals were scored in the first half and victory was achieved with the minimum of fuss speaks volumes of the progress this team, our team, has made.
Scotland have beaten former world champions Spain, Erling Haaland’s Norway, Georgia and now Cyprus, twice, to put themselves in this position.
They hold a nine point lead on the Spaniards who have played two games fewer, and crucially are 11 points clear of both the Norwegians and the Georgians.
With the latter two due to meet while Scotland face Gareth Southgate’s England at Hampden on Tuesday, a draw in Norway means Scotland will qualify with three games to spare.
Steve Clarke’s Scotland has become an attractive proposition for players
To say there is a feel-good factor around the national team does not do this group of players or the manager justice.
An international team boasting a club atmosphere, Scotland has become the place everyone wants to be.
Even Harvey Barnes is reportedly contemplating making the switch to Scotland despite earning an international cap for England in a friendly three years ago.
Players eligible for Scotland as well as other countries used to bide their time in case a better offer came their way.
These days Scotland offers not just international recognition but on the world stage in the finals of major tournaments.
After 20 years in the international wilderness it looks as if the next two decades could be among the most memorable in our history.
Nobody would have dared dream it possible when Clarke took over in May 2019.
But here we are. We’ve suffered long enough so let’s enjoy being able to drink it all in and savour it.