NZ Herald

14 Jun, 2024 06:45 PM5 mins to read

Niclas Fullkrug of Germany celebrates scoring. Photo / Getty Images

Euro 2024 - Figure 1
Photo New Zealand Herald

Live updates of the European Championship Group A clash between hosts Germany and Scotland.

The sound of bagpipes, and men in kilts on the streets of Munich — Scotland is in town and the excitement is ramping up ahead of the European Championship curtain-raiser on Friday.

Host nation Germany plays Scotland at Allianz Arena in the opener of the monthlong tournament.

The final is in Berlin on July 14 and Germany is even keener to get there after three straight fiascos at major tournaments that has forced its fans to readjust their expectations of the men’s national team.

“We are not here just to say hello but we still have to be humble,” Germany defender Antonio Rüdiger said. “We don’t have to talk about past tournaments, we all know what happened there.

“It’s been up and down for us all the way here and that’s why we have to be humble. The first match is very important and then we’ll see what happens during the rest of the tournament.”

A good first match and group stage would set off a new wave of excitement in Germany, even though scenes similar to when it brilliantly hosted the 2006 World Cup (and reached the semifinals) are hard to imagine in a changed political landscape.

While the Scots are out in droves in Munich, proudly wearing their team jerseys (many combined with kilts), there is hardly a sighting of a Germany shirt or flag. Political extremists are flourishing, anxiety pervades the country, and the national team has under-performed. It is understandable the home fans are going about their daily life in contrast to the partying visitors.

The anticipation might still be simmering but Germany captain İlkay Gündoğan believes a convincing start could change the picture.

“I think the atmosphere will be positive but then they will look at how we’re playing, how much will we’ll show. So we have to then pass it on to the fans,” he said on the eve of the match. “At the end no one remembers how you won a game, they just remember that you won.

“No other game is like the first one because after that you can use the momentum, use the euphoria for the next few games. That’s why the most important objective is to win the game.”

While the Germans are bemused by their raucous Scottish counterparts, there should still be plenty of more colors on matchday. And plenty of pressure on the home nation which is the clear favourite.

“We are the team with a little more pressure, and they will certainly want to take advantage of that,” Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said on Thursday. “We can beat the pressure and we can beat Scotland.”

Germany went out at the group stage of both previous World Cups and was eliminated by England in the round of 16 at Euro 2021. But defeat to Scotland would be a shock, even though the Scots have improved significantly in recent years.

“It’s going to be an amazing experience … being part of that kind of opening ceremony,” Scotland forward Ryan Christie said when asked about playing the opening match.

“Germany, an amazing team. All the international teams go through peaks and drops in form. But when these big tournaments come up, the big teams normally show up most of the time. So it will be a really tough game.”

Hungary and Switzerland are also in Group A.

Having failed to reach the Euros from 2000-16, Scotland has qualified for back-to-back tournaments and the next aim is to reach the knockout stage for the first time.

“Qualifying for the first Euros was massive for us, and then to get two in a row was incredible. But now we want to compete … we don’t want to have any regrets this time,” Scotland captain Andy Robertson said on Thursday.

“What’s the worst that can happen? We go into a long list of (Scotland) teams that have failed to make it out of the group. And that’s the worst that can happen. So let’s start from that point and move on from it. And we believe that we can be the team that can create history.”

Scotland showed during the qualifying campaign it can surprise, in beating Spain and Norway.

However, Scotland has won only one of its last 13 matches against Germany and that was more than 25 years ago, 1-0 in a friendly in April 1999.

Plus, Germany has another, rather more unusual motivation to win the trophy on its own turf.

Deniz Undav has said he will shave the head of fellow Germany forward Thomas Müller if the team becomes European champion.

“Thomas Müller bald? Then we have to do everything we can to make this happen. I don’t think he will look so beautiful with a shaved head,” defender Rüdiger said with a laugh. - AP

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