Scotland aiming to burst confident Germany’s bubble

High expectation about the home side but Scotland boss Steve Clarke says ‘we respect everyone, fear no one’

Scotland fans in high spirits in Munich city centre in advance of their European Championship clash with hosts Germany. Photograph: Martin Divisek/EPA
Euro 2024 Group A: Germany v Scotland, Munich Arena, Friday, 8.0 – Live on RTÉ 2 and ITV

“I don’t want to talk about the past.”

Julian Nagelsmann is here to dilute any drama.

“There is such a buzz, it is like being in school, can everyone please calm down a little bit?” pleaded the 36-year-old German coach ahead of the European Championships opener against Scotland in Munich.

“I come from a town with more cows than [human] inhabitants. I look forward to this moment, but I am nervous.”

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The population of Landsberg am Lech is just over 27,000. That’s a lot of cows.

Calmness inside the Allianz Arena will come in the form of Toni Kroos, the 34-year-old Real Madrid midfielder who Nagelsmann recently talked out of international retirement.

“Toni wanted to know how we were going to try to win. When we spoke about that, he was like, ‘Let’s rock’.”

Standard questions about Scotland invite the usual European managerial cliche of “British style” and euphemisms for the Scots being hackers. Not Nagelsmann.

Julian Nagelsmann, head coach of Germany leads a training session at the team's base in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Photograph: Anna Szilagi/EPA/EFE

“Scotland do not have many world stars but that is what makes them so dangerous. Lots of physicality, aggressiveness on the second ball, lots of crosses. They are not a kick and rush team. But they can do that.

“They have come a long way from balls up in the air. We will have more possession than Scotland, but when I look into my players’ eyes, I know they are ready to win.”

Scotland are expected to play patsy to Germany’s second coming of Sommermärchen, but the Tartan Army numbers in the tens of thousands in Munich’s central tributaries, plenty wearing embroidered kilts, many taking liberal libations of local hops.

“If feels as if most of the country are over here, which is crazy,” said Andy Robertson, the Scottish captain.

“We’ve waited a long time for this game, years and years,” added Robertson, who knows his history, this being their first major tournament for Scotland outside the UK since 1998. “We know how quickly it can go by you, so it is important that we show up for the match.

“If we do that we can create a bit of history, but we know we have to be at our best, Germany are an exceptional team in front of their home fans. It does not get more difficult than that. There is no expectation from the outside world but we expect a lot from ourselves.”

A father and son over from Glasgow nestled into Viktualienmarkt in the old town to sample some stomach-swelling bratwurst. “We cannae score, unless from midfielders,” says the boy to nodding approval from dad and the travelling media.

Scotland's Callum McGregor (c) and Scott McTominay (r) take part in the squad's training session at the team's base camp in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in advance of the Germany clash. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

This is a golden age for Scottish second-ballers arriving late into the box. Scott McTominay’s seven goals in qualifying forced Erik Ten Hag to reimagine his Manchester United career while John McGinn has been Aston Villa’s grittiest performer.

McGinn’s quality puts him above McTominay and Celtic skipper Callum McGregor but together the trio will hunt down the stellar German midfield of İlkay Gündoğan and Kroos.

Three years ago at the Euros, Billy Gilmour lit up Wembley against England. Now at Brighton, where his career has slowed, a late cameo is still expected from the 23-year-old.

“We think we can break them down and go and win the game,” said Gilmour. “Everyone doubts us sometimes – ‘Typical Scotland’ – and we need to get out of that kind of routine.”

Back in the old town, the father remembers the routine, and its glorious failure, like Archie Gemmill’s wonder goal against the Netherlands in 1978 instantly followed by elimination from that World Cup on goal difference. Also-rans at the Euros is another part of this routine; as happened in 1992, Paul Gascoigne’s goal in ‘96, and the best forgotten Hampden Park losses of 2021.

But the son only sees the possibility of McGinn and McTominay blotting this grey German summer.

“One of the mantras we have always had,” said Scotland manager Steve Clarke “is we respect everyone, fear no one.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent