Group A profile: All you need to know about Scotland's group stage opponents

Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour is one to watch in Group A. (Image: SNS)

The favourites

As much as I’d love to let my heart rule my head – and I have to a large extent in the rest of this group profile – you can’t look past Germany.

The hosts have pressure and expectation on their shoulders, granted, and hopefully the Scots can take advantage of any opening night nerves in the Allianz, but man-for-man the German squad is far superior to anything else in the section, and they will come through to top it.

Middle ground

There is a case for naming all three of Germany’s opponents in this category, given how tight the matches between them should theoretically be, but even though Scotland are the lowest seeded team in the group, I’m going to give Steve Clarke’s men the benefit of the doubt and have them vying for second place.

READ MORE: Vogts left Tartan Army with Post Teutonic Stress Disorder

Alongside the Scots are the Swiss, who may not be the sexiest team on paper, but whose greater tournament experience just marks them out as a greater threat to Scotland’s progression ahead of the Hungarians.

Scotland’s game against Germany is rightly being billed as the nation’s biggest in 25 years or more, but the next match against Switzerland will likely be far more consequential in terms of the national team’s chances of progression. Avoid defeat, and it should set Scotland up for a last-day cracker.

The weak link

Which brings us to Hungary. Labelling them the weak link is arguably unfair, and may come back to bite me, but in terms of overall squad quality, I think the Hungarian 26 is (just) the weakest in this section.

Yes, they have Liverpool star Dominik Szoboszlai, and a few other reliable performers, like RB Leipzig duo Peter Gulasci and Willi Orban, but if Szoboszlai can be nullified, there isn’t really a great deal of threat from elsewhere on the face of it.

Famous last words, and all that.

Star men

Most of these, unfortunately, are in the German ranks. Toni Kroos has come out of international retirement, and it will be fascinating to see how the Scottish midfield copes against the Real Madrid metronome.

There is plenty of young attacking talent in their team too, which we will come to shortly, but for sheer star quality then Kroos is your man.

There are a smattering of other high-profile stars though throughout this group, with Scotland not short of a few in the shape of Andy Robertson, John McGinn and Scott McTominay.

Hungary have the afore-mentioned Szoboszlai, while Switzerland don’t really have a standout star in their attack, with their biggest name now arguably the Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji.

Ones to watch

Either Florian Wirtz or Jamal Musiala could easily have been included in the section above as star men, and the dynamic wide duo are the players that will likely have been giving Steve Clarke sleepless nights over the past few weeks.

Wirtz had an incredible season with Bayer Leverkusen, while Musiala has already gained a reputation for stepping up in big games with crucial goals. The Scotland defence will have their hands full up against these two.

It will be a tall order to outshine them, but in Billy Gilmour, Scotland have a talent that could announce himself on the world stage at this tournament.

The gifted midfielder’s career stalled a little after a poor loan at Norwich City from Chelsea, but he is now flourishing at Brighton, and looked a class above anything else on the pitch at Hampden last Friday night. Big things are expected from the former Rangers kid in Germany.

READ MORE: The German view on Germany’s chances of success at Euro 2024

Elsewhere, Hungary’s Milos Kerkez had a brilliant breakout season in Ryan Christie’s Bournemouth side, with the 20-year-old left wing-back considered one of the most exciting young talents in world football.

Scottish Connection

Well, we are in the section, but there are some other (very tenuous) links to Scotland in the opposition ranks too.

As mentioned, Kerkez is a teammate of Christie at Bournemouth, while Germany’s Fabian Groβ often lines up alongside Gilmour in the Brighton midfield.

Callum Styles, the Bury-born Hungary midfielder, was signed by former Rangers manager Michael Beale, while Gulasci, Orban and Szoboszlai were in the RB Leipzig team that beat Celtic twice in the Champions League last season.

Source link: Group A profile: All you need to know about Scotland's group stage opponents