Scotland must drop one star name for Euro 2024 Germany opener and Celtic reserve should get key role

Steve Clarke facing selection dilemmas for tournament opener

All eyes will be on Scotland on Friday evening as they kick off Euro 2024 against hosts Germany amid the spectacular backdrop of the 75,000 capacity Allianz Arena at the home of Bayern Munich.

Germany are among the tournament favourites and will be expected to get their home competition underway with a victory over a Scotland side bidding to go beyond the group stages of a major finals for the first time.

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For Steve Clarke, much will rest on his team selection and tactics as he looks to spring a major upset along similar lines to Greece defeating hosts Portugal in the opening match of Euro 2004. The Greeks went on to win the tournament in one of the greatest shocks of all-time. What odds on Scotland doing something similar in Germany? We can dream.

Could Ryan Christie could be the star name to drop out of the Scotland starting XI against Germany?Could Ryan Christie could be the star name to drop out of the Scotland starting XI against Germany?
Could Ryan Christie could be the star name to drop out of the Scotland starting XI against Germany?

There are a number of selection dilemmas facing the Scotland head coach, particulary over the make-up of his defence, who drops out to allow talisman Scott McTominay back into midfield, and who leads the line in attack.

Here we attempt to come up with the answers...

Goalkeeper

Barring any unforeseen developments, Norwich goalkeeper Angus Gunn will be tasked with keeping the ball out of the net against Germany and for the duration of Scotland's involvement in the tournament. He has proved a dependable number one since switching allegience from England prior to the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. If Scotland are to have any hope of emerging with a positive result, they will need Gunn to be at his best, which will mean no repeat of his erratic performance in the Championship play-off semi-final defeat to Leeds last month, where he was blamed for two goals.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke during a training session at Stadion am Groben in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.Scotland manager Steve Clarke during a training session at Stadion am Groben in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke during a training session at Stadion am Groben in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Defence

Unless Clarke is planning a major surprise, it is likely he will line up with three centre-backs in his favoured 3-4-2-1 formation. Kieran Tierney is a certain starter on the left of the back three but the other two positions are less clear cut. Grant Hanley would appear favourite for the central berth after starting both warm-up friendlies against Gibraltar and Finland but question marks remain over his match sharpness after a stop-start return from a long-term injury with Norwich. He strolled through the Gibraltar match but did not look entirely comfortable against Finland. However, Scotland have conceded too many goals of late and Clarke may feel that Hanley – whose last competitive game for Scotland was the 2-0 win over Spain at Hampden last March – is the best option at his disposal. Ryan Porteous has been a regular starter for Scotland at right centre-back since making an impressive debut in a goalless draw with Ukraine in September 2022. The Watford man played the full match against Gibraltar but was an unused substitute against Finland with Jack Hendry given a 90-minute runout in the position. Hendry has also been a Clarke favourite over his time in charge so could get the nod.

Wing-backs

Andy Robertson, after recovering from his minor injury scare, will captain the side for the 50th time and be heavily relied upon down the left flank both defensively and particularly in attack. He was Scotland's main, and at times only threat against Finland, picking up an assist for each of the goals, with so much of Scotland's attacking play coming through the Liverpool left-back's surging runs and deliveries into the box. So crucial are wing-backs to the way Scotland play that it is a real blow that preferred right-sided options, Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson, are both ruled out. Hickey was the emerging young star of the qualifying campaign until suffering the hamstring injury with Brentford that has kept him out since October. Clarke has been left with a choice between Celtic reserve Anthony Ralston and Bristol City's Ross McCrorie. Ralston, despite playing less minutes this season, should get the nod given he has been involved in recent squads, has eight caps and one international goal behind him, and put in a solid display against Finland the other night.

Scotland's Che Adams during a training session at Stadion am Groben in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.Scotland's Che Adams during a training session at Stadion am Groben in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Scotland's Che Adams during a training session at Stadion am Groben in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Midfield

The one area of the pitch where Clarke is blessed with options may also be giving him the biggest headache with one star name likely to miss out. Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour dovetailed at the base of midfield against Finland and could do so again in Munich. That would leave Clarke with a decision to make over his two more attacking midfield roles. John McGinn and Scott McTominay would appear the obvious candidates, but Ryan Christie was arguably Scotland's most creative midfielder in the recent warm-up friendlies, which included a goal against Gibraltar, and it can be argued he brings better balance to the side as a more natural link between midfield and attack. It would be a tough call to leave the Bournemouth man on the bench but it would be an even braver decision from Clarke to leave out one of McGregor, Gilmour, McTominay or McGinn. Clarke has previous for benching Gilmour – he didn’t start either match against Spain in the qualifiers – and that could be the solution he opts for, however unpallatable that may be to some.

Attack

The fact Che Adams was kept on the bench against Finland after his eye-catching finish against Gibraltar would suggest the Southampton striker was being wrapped in cotton wool ahead of the Germany match. Lawrence Shankland boosted his chances with a well-executed backwards header against Finland, but will be a valuable option off the bench if Scotland are in need of a goal, as he proved with an injury-time equaliser in Georgia in November after being brought on for the final five minutes. While Shankland had a superb season at Hearts, Adams is also coming into the Euros hot on the back of a prolific second half of the season in the English Championship that has seen him drawn into a transfer battle between Wolves and Nottingham Forest. He is the best man to lead the line against the Germans but that could change as the tournament progresses.

Predicted Scotland XI: Gunn; Hendry, Hanley, Tierney; Ralston, McGregor, McTominay, Robertson; McGinn, Christie; Adams.

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