UEFA president Michel Platini has hailed Scotland as innovators of the extended European Championship finals and challenged them not to miss out on being part of it.
Speaking ahead of today’s Euro 2016 qualifying draw in Nice, Platini expressed his confidence that the increase from 16 to 24 teams for the finals of the tournament will be a success.
The change was initially proposed by the Scottish FA and the FA of Ireland seven years ago and received almost unanimous support of Uefa members.
It should enhance the prospects of Scotland reaching a major tournament finals for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France and Platini would welcome the presence of the Tartan Army in his homeland.
“It is not far from France, I’m sure they would come in big numbers,” said Platini. “But you have to earn the right to participate - that’s up to Scotland.
“It was the idea of Scotland and Ireland to increase the tournament to 24 teams, back in 2007. It was accepted by the Uefa members and I believe it will be just as good as the 16 team tournament.
“I admire British fans generally. They have a way of supporting their teams which is very special. It is wonderful to see. But I’m the president of 54 Uefa nations, so I can’t say I prefer one.
“It was difficult for them to qualify when there was just 16 teams. Now the pressure is on them because there are 24 places - but it will be just as difficult for them to qualify as it was before because there are some very, very good teams.
“Maybe the five or six biggest teams won’t have much to worry about. But the fifteenth and sixteenth? They will all have to fight very, very hard.
“Maybe if they don’t qualify for the 24 team tournament they’ll be asking for a 32 team tournament. Or maybe even a 54 team tournament - but by that time we’ll have a new UEFA president!
“But look, we know everybody wants to qualify and the 24 team tournament will be a great success partly because all of those 24 teams will be extremely good - just as good as they were in the 16 team tournament.”