Scotland will play for the most lucrative prize of their international history in the Euro 2020 play-offs next March.
Steve Clarke’s squad will earn the Scottish FA at least €9.25 million in prize money – just under £8 million at current exchange rates – if they can overcome Israel and then beat either Norway or Serbia to claim a place in the Euro 2020 finals.
Scotland learned the path they must negotiate to end their 22-year absence from a major tournament finals when the play-offs draw was held at Uefa headquarters in Nyon yesterday morning.
It was a case of mixed fortunes for the Scots who will feel confident they can defeat Israel at Hampden in the semi-final on Thursday, 26 March but have missed out on home advantage if they reach the final – which will be in either Oslo or Belgrade on Tuesday, 31 March.
But the incentive on offer could hardly be greater, both in terms of the country’s prestige after so much time spent among international football’s also-rans, and with the financial rewards on offer.
When Scotland last played at a major tournament finals, in the 1998 World Cup in France, they received prize money from Fifa of just over £3m. That sum is worth around £5.2m today, considerably less than would pour into the Scottish FA coffers next summer if Clarke can book a place at Euro 2020, for which Glasgow is a host city, and where his team would play two of their three group stage matches at Hampden.
On top of the €9.25m Scotland would receive from Uefa just for participating in the finals, teams will earn an additional €1m for each group stage victory and €500,000 for a draw.
If Scotland could progress beyond the group stage of a major tournament for the first time in their history, they would pick up a further €1.5m for making it to the last 16.
For now, simply reaching the finals remains a tall order for Clarke’s squad, with Serbia installed as the bookies’ favourites to qualify from the play-offs after Friday’s draw. But the Scotland head coach has called for unity and optimism ahead of the crucial assignment in March.
“This is the time to believe,” said Clarke. “We have just finished what was a difficult campaign, having experienced a turbulent few years for players, fans and managers alike.
“It’s now time to channel the positivity following our recent results and focus on the semi-final in March first and foremost.”