'Fired up' Germany to lift curtain on Euro 2024 against Scotland

Nagelsmann's side eager to reclaim their place among Europe's elite

AFP June 14, 2024


Hosts Germany kick off Euro 2024 on Friday in Munich against Scotland, the start of a journey the three-time continental champions hope will conclude with victory in the final in Berlin on July 14.

After three dismal tournaments in a row -- including going out in the group stage at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups -- Julian Nagelsmann's side take on the challenge of putting Germany back among Europe's heavyweights.

Three wins in 11 matches last year reduced already low expectations, but under Nagelsmann the outlook has gradually improved, and there is increased optimism from supporters as well.

It is Germany's first men's major tournament as hosts since the 2006 World Cup, and they are looking to recreate the magic that helped rekindle the passion for the national team after a similar spell in the doldrums.

"I think it's normal that you feel a little bit of pressure before a tournament and before important games like these," the 36-year-old Nagelsmann said on Thursday.

"The players are fired up, they want it, they are hungry for better results than in the last tournaments."

"I want the country to spur us on, we want to use the home advantage," Nagelsmann added.

Germany will be fancied to top Group A, which also features Hungary and Switzerland, given the quality at their disposal, from veteran playmaker Toni Kroos to younger stars Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala.

Manuel Neuer remains the first-choice goalkeeper despite a series of recent errors, while Antonio Rudiger adds steel to the defence.

Captain Ilkay Gundogan, who played at the last two World Cups and Euro 2020, where Germany exited in the last 16, said it was essential the hosts started well on Friday.

"No other game is like the first one," said the Barcelona midfielder.

"After this you can use the momentum and euphoria for the next ones. That's why the most important goal tomorrow is to win the game."

An estimated 150,000 travelling Scots are set to descend upon Munich for the opening game, dreaming of shocking the Germans in their own back yard.

It is just Scotland's second major tournament since 1998. They returned to the big stage at Euro 2020 but finished bottom of the group, picking up their only point in a dour 0-0 draw with England.

"We know it's a big game, but for us it's the opening game of a four-team section, three matches, we know what we have to do to qualify and that's all we focus on," said Scotland boss Steve Clarke.

"It's a difficult game. One of the mantras I've had is respect everyone and fear no one."

Clashes against Switzerland and Hungary after taking on the Germans would appear to offer an easier path to the four points Clarke is targeting to qualify for the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time.

Scotland captain Andy Robertson believes his side have what it takes to get beyond the group stage.

"We know that's what's at stake. We've got a lot of incentive to do well but one is becoming that legendary squad, that has to drive us forward," said the Liverpool defender.

"It's important we show up to our maximum and if we do that we can create a bit of history."

"We've waited a long time for this game. We're all really excited," he added. "There's no real pressure on us, no real expectation from the outside world."

Scotland lost striker Lyndon Dykes to a knee injury, but Clarke said everyone in his squad was "fully fit and flying" including Scott McTominay, who played no part in two recent friendlies.

The Manchester United midfielder was the top scorer with seven goals, one ahead of Erling Haaland, in a qualifying group consisting of Spain, Norway and European Championship newcomers Georgia.

On Saturday, Hungary take on Switzerland in Cologne in the other match in the section before Spain play Croatia in the opening Group B game in Berlin.

Reigning champions Italy round out the action on day two against Albania in Dortmund.


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