Scotland face ‘tough opener’ at U17 Euro finals

High hopes: Sixteen'year'old Dundee striker Craig Wighton. Picture: SNS
High hopes: Sixteen'year'old Dundee striker Craig Wighton. Picture: SNS
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Scotland’s under-17 side begin their campaign to become the best side in Europe today when they meet Portugal in the UEFA European Championship finals in Malta.

The young Scots reached the eight-team finals after coming through an Elite qualifying group containing Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium and Romania back in March with three wins from three games.

As well as facing the cream of Portuguese talent Scotland will face Germany on Monday and then Switzerland next Thursday as they look to make an impression on a big stage.

National coach Scot Gemmill said: “This is Scotland’s first finals at this age group for six years so it is a big occasion for everyone. We have been working towards this week for 18 months and it is my job to ensure that the boys handle being one of the last eight teams in the competition.”

The game, at the Gozo Stadium in Xewkija, will see Scotland face a side that also qualified in fine style. Gemmill said: “All the teams here are big footballing nations and we have a tough opener as Portugal won the three games in their Elite Group by the same 3-0 score-line.

“I have watched their games and they are a big and strong side but we have a group of players that can play against that level of opposition.

“Our players should see this as a great opportunity to show what they can do. We have not set any expectations but we know that we have players that can make a name for themselves in this tournament.”

Win lose or draw, Gemmill is sure that there will be a longer term benefit for Scotland. He added: “Regardless of the results we secure the players will come back from this tournament better players. They are playing against the best players from Europe and they will benefit from that.”

Gemmill’s squad includes Dundee striker Craig Wighton, who is only 16 but has already made the first-team breakthrough. The forward has over a dozen matches under his belt for the Dens Park club, who won promotion back to the top flight last week. Wighton scored twice in the league this season as Dundee won the Scottish Championship.

BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon

THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.

The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.

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