If you want to make a good first impression then opportunities for Scotland do not come any better than the opening game of next summer’s Euro 2024 finals.
It is like 1998 all over again and there is little doubt the late Craig Brown would have had afforded himself a grin had he been with us to hear the news.
His Scotland squad was handed the biggest match possible in facing the world champions Brazil in Paris in the opening game of the World Cup 25 years ago.
The current Scotland boss Steve Clarke has been given the honour of leading his side out for the opening game of next summer’s finals in Germany against the hosts.
If you are going to return to the big stage you might as well go all out, eh?
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) December 3, 2023
Germany 2024 feels like the real deal
As welcome as Scotland’s return to the world stage was for Euro 2020 the format meant we were at home for two of the three games.
As nice as it was to be back with the stadium at 20% of capacity due to the Covid pandemic it feels as if Germany next summer will be a far more joyous occasion.
A Tartan Army invasion is guaranteed following Saturday’s draw in Hamburg which went as well as could be hoped.
The old ‘anyone but England’ phrase has taken on new meaning in recent years given the number of times the two nations have faced each other.
We’ve done that this time round but there is the potential for a meeting with Gareth Southgate’s side in the last 16. Now that would take the famous rivalry to new heights.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – England have still to get out of their group first.
Qualification does not feel like mission impossible
Seriously, it’s Scotland’s progress which we need to focus on and given we have yet to get out of a group in the finals of a major tournament in our history it remains the mother of all hurdles for a Scotland fan.
Could next year be the year it finally happens?
We’ll see, but the Germans right now are anything but the force we’ve come to expect.
Julian Nagelsmann’s team is one in transition but the pressure to deliver in front of an expectant home support will be huge come June.
If you could pick when to face the Germans then the opening game would be your choice.
But we should beware Hungary at our peril. If the Germans are the favourites then Hungary must be pushing them very close.
They topped Group G with 18 points, one more than Scotland managed in their campaign.
Switzerland, with four last-16 berths in the last five World Cups, are no mugs either and it took penalties for Spain to beat them in the quarter-finals of the Euros in 2021.
All three matches will be tests but Scotland are heading to Germany a better team than the one which competed in the previous championships.
That is due in no small measure to the manager who has built a squad which believes in him and is executing his gameplan brilliantly.
Much can happen between now and June but Scotland should be looking forward with optimism at this point.
The Tartan Army most certainly will be.