Finishing second in Group D is not beyond the realms of possibility, but it would require a winner in the England v Czech Republic game – both teams have four points – and Scotland – currently bottom on one point – to win and overturn the goal difference. Scotland are on -2, with England on +1 and the Czechs on +2.
Given that Scotland are the only team in the tournament yet to score, most Scots would admit that the best-case scenario is qualifying as one of the four best third-placed teams, and that means that we are all watching with huge interest what goes on in Monday’s matches in Groups B and C.
In Group B, Belgium have already qualified on six points. Russia are second on three points with goal difference of -2, with Finland behind them on three points and a goal difference of 0 (they are beneath the Russians due to head-to-head record). Denmark are bottom of the pile with no points.
That quartet of teams conclude their pool matches at 8pm this evening, with Belgium playing Finland in St Petersburg and Russia and Denmark squaring off in Copenhagen.
What Scotland want from this one is fairly straightforward. If Belgium defeat the Finns, then no matter the result in Russia, the third-placed team will end up on three points. However, if Finland do take something from the Belgians, then the best result for Scotland in Copenhagen is a Denmark win to ensure that Russia don’t get more than three points. If the Danes do win, they go above the Russians into third on three points.
Group C, which includes Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia, holds more peril from a Scottish perspective.
Those games start at 5pm. Don’t worry about the meeting in Amsterdam between the Dutch and the North Macedonians. Netherlands have six points and are already in the last 16, while North Macedonia have no points and can’t finish third.
The game of concern in Ukraine v Austria in Bucharest. Both teams are on three points with goal differences of 0 (Ukraine are ahead because they have scored four goals, Austria have scored three). A draw would see the Ukrainians through in second place, while Austria would be in a good position on four points in third with a goal difference of 0.
If one of the two was to win, however, then we’d have a third-placed team on three points – something Scotland are keen to see.
We already know one of the third-placed teams after Group A concluded on Sunday evening. After defeating Turkey 3-1, Switzerland finished third on four points with a goal difference of -1 (scored 4, conceded 5). Scotland would need to defeat Croatia by two clear goals, or win 4-3, to go ahead of the Swiss in the pecking order.
So, in short, we’re cheering on Belgium today and someone to win between Ukraine and Austria. It’s never straightforward with Scotland …