Scotland not packing their bags with chance to end run of group-stage exits

scotland not packing their bags with chance to end run of group-stage exits

Scotland manager Steve Clarke and his assistant, John Carver (left), are focused on securing a last-16 place. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Scotland’s players and management will not pack their luggage at their Bavarian training base before heading to their final Group A fixture against Hungary. The Scots are full of belief that they will return to Garmisch-Partenkirchen after Sunday’s match in Stuttgart, rather than board a plane home on account of an early tournament exit.

Scotland would almost certainly progress to the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a win. Defeat, however, would continue the Scottish trend of ­failure to reach the knockout phase of a finals. John Carver, the assistant manager, explained the attitude within Scotland’s camp.

“We’ve not even spoken about packing our bags,” Carver said. “We’re not interested in that. That is mentally important. You don’t want the devil on your shoulder saying: ‘Get upstairs and pack your bags.’ Nobody has even dropped it into the conversation. Nobody has ­spoken about going home. My wife hasn’t even spoken about going home. I am being genuine.

“We’re just planning for going and getting the right result. Why wouldn’t you want to stay here?”

This psychology is interesting given Scotland are broadly regarded as underdogs against a Hungary team who entered the Euros in fine form – save a friendly loss to the Republic of Ireland – and are ranked 12 places higher in the world. And still, the Scotland players will not check out of their rooms.

“They are staying,” Carver said. “Everything is staying. We haven’t even spoken about it. The guy who is in charge of our training ground is an English lad. He works for ­Leipzig. He came down and he’s been ­working with us. He’s a great guy, so ­helpful, he has given us everything we wanted. But he left yesterday and he said: ‘I’m coming back on Monday, I’ll see you on Monday.’ And I said: ‘Absolutely, I can’t wait to see you.’ I am as positive as they come.”

Kieran Tierney did leave Germany on Friday. The defender boarded a flight to London so that Arsenal can assess what looked a serious hamstring injury sustained during Wednesday’s draw with Switzerland.

“He was OK this morning,” Carver said. “He came to see people before he left and he will be back [to support the team] if we progress. He is a young lad, a talented lad and he has plenty of time whether it is short term, medium term, long term. Whatever it is, he has plenty of time to recover but he has got to make sure he is right when he comes back.

“He is so unlucky. I class him as a finely tuned athlete; most of them are. When you are as quick as what he is – and you don’t realise how quick he is – it is a fine margin.”

Carver has been struck by the swell of Scottish support around their matches in Munich and Cologne. As the team arrived back at their hotel from the Switzerland draw, there was a rapturous welcome from members of the Tartan Army. “It’s late and they’re all there, women, children, blokes,” said Carver. “They gave us an unbelievable reception. We get to bed and eventually get to sleep and, when we get up in the ­morning, the fans are still there. They were ­applauding the players and the staff on to the bus again.

“We get the police escort to the ­airport in Cologne and there’s loads of them lying outside the train station with beers in their hands ­applauding. It was just amazing. The Tartan Army always used to go and enjoy ­themselves with no trouble and that’s why there’s no party without them. But to see them live and be among it now is quite incredible.”

Tierney aside, Scotland have no personnel issues for Sunday’s game. The manager, Steve Clarke, must decide whether to field Scott ­McKenna as a replacement for ­Tierney at left centre-back or switch to a four-man defence.

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