Preview: Germany vs. Scotland

Fans will descend upon the Allianz Arena in Munich for Friday’s eagerly-awaited Euro 2024 curtain-raiser, as hosts Germany commence the latest continental gathering against Scotland in Group A.

For Die Mannschaft, the home Euros represents a gilt-edged chance to rectify some recent failures, while Steve Clarke’s men are still waiting for their first knockout-round appearance.

Match preview

Formerly manning the Allianz Arena touchline during his short-lived Bayern Munich stint – which many felt ended unfairly prematurely – the youthful Julian Nagelsmann returns to the ‘home’ dugout on Friday evening seeking the perfect start to Germany’s latest endeavour for European stardom.

This summer’s championships marks Die Mannscahft’s first Euros in the post-Joachim Low and just their second tournament since the World Cup-winning boss stepped down at the end of Euro 2020, which ended in a gut-wrenching last-16 elimination at the hands of familiar foes England.

Eighteen months on from their disastrous World Cup 2022 performance under Hansi Flick, Germany are unsurprisingly regarded as the outright favourites to top a section also housing Hungary and Switzerland, and following an underwhelming start under Nagelsmann, the Euros hosts enter Friday’s opening act with the wind in their sails.

Indeed, Germany’s record from four friendly matches in 2024 reads three wins and one draw – defeating powerhouses France and the Netherlands in March before drawing with Ukraine and edging out Greece earlier this month – and as hosts, Nagelsmann’s men did not have to navigate the rigmarole of qualifying.

However, such circumstances means that Die Mannschaft have not taken to the field in competitive action since their inconsequential 4-2 Costa Rica success in their 2022 World Cup finale – the 12th Euros/World Cup game on the spin where they failed to keep a clean sheet – but they have reached the semi-finals on each of the last three occasions that they have hosted a major tournament.

As the tournament hosts look to restore the former glories of the 1972, 1980 and 1996 European champions, Scotland have far more modest aspirations in mind, as the British nation will play just their 10th-ever match at the Euros finals under the bright Allianz Arena lights.

Friday’s ‘visitors’ at least managed to claim one group-stage triumph at the 1992 and 1996 editions before bowing out at the first hurdle, but upon their long-awaited return to the biggest continental stage in 2021, their search for even a single victory ended in abject failure.

Accruing just one point from nine on offer at Euro 2020 preceded Scotland’s failure to end their World Cup Finals drought – which now stretches back to 1998 – and even though Euro 2024 qualifying was a tale of two halves, a magnificent first half proved sufficient to send Steve Clarke’s men to Germany.

Indeed, 2008 and 2012 champions Spain were among Scotland’s victims in their astounding five-match winning sequence in qualifying before they went winless in each of their final three, but with their form suffering a recent nosedive, Clarke’s men arrive in Munich boasting just one win from their last nine in all tournaments.

Even then a 2-0 triumph over perpetual whipping boys Gibraltar was not much to shout about, and since a shock 1-0 friendly victory in 1999, Scotland have failed to triumph in any of their last four clashes against Germany, most recently going down in a pair of Euro 2016 qualifiers by an aggregate scoreline of 5-3.

Team News

As well as the likes of Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry or Timo Werner – all of whom missed out on selection for various reasons – Germany boss Nagelsmann has lost 20-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder Aleksandar Pavlovic, as a bout of tonsillitis has forced him to withdraw from the squad.

Borussia Dortmund’s Emre Can has been nominated to replace him, but Nagelsmann is expected to settle on a double pivot of Bayer Leverkusen lynchpin Robert Andrich and the retiring Toni Kroos in the centre anyway.

Kroos and Andrich’s partnership should see Ilkay Gundogan don the captain’s armband from the number 10 position, but Nagelsmann still has a couple of quandaries in attack, where Leroy Sane and Florian Wirtz are jostling for position out wide, while Niclas Fullkrug and Kai Havertz scrap to spearhead the charge.

In contrast, Scotland were one of the countries dealt devastating injury blows earlier this month, as Queens Park Rangers striker Lyndon Dykes was forced to withdraw from the squad with an ankle injury sustained in training, leaving the visitors without their primary focal point.

Liverpool winger Ben Doak also pulled out – although he has been nursing a knee issue since December and was a surprise call-up in the first place – while Rangers’ John Souttar and veteran goalkeeper Craig Gordon were the unfortunate souls to drop out of the squad when Clarke cut his ranks down to 26.

However, the likes of Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and Stuart Armstrong should all be primed and ready to go after battling back from knocks, while Ryan Jack was absent from training on Tuesday but is not thought to be in any danger of missing the contest.

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