Scotland’s Record at the Euros: How Many Times Have They Qualified?

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Scotland national football team

Scotland were drawn in Group A alongside the mighty Spain for qualification for Euro 2024 in Germany. However, with the other three teams being Georgia, Norway and Cyprus, and the top two making it to Germany for what will be a 24-team finals, Scotland must have fancied their chances of making it through to another major tournament proper.

They have made a stunning start to qualification too and it might just be time for Scotland’s famous Tartan Army to begin researching or even booking their flights to Germany. Steve Clarke’s men beat Georgia on the 20th of June 2023 to make it four wins from four and they are sitting pretty at the top of the pile with 12 points. Incredibly they managed to beat Spain 2-0 and then backed that up with a 2-1 win away in Norway and so they really are in a stupendous position, with qualification for the finals within touching distance.

However, rather than getting ahead of ourselves and wondering how Clarke’s troops might get on in Germany, we have decided to look back to the previous performances at this competition. Do Scotland have a good record at the Euros? How often have they made the tournament proper in the past and what has been their best result?

Summary of Scotland’s Record at the European Championship

Before we look in more detail at some of the times the Scots have made it to the finals of the continental extravaganza, let’s look at the wider picture.

  • 1960 and 1964 – did not enter
  • 1968 to 1988 inclusive – failed to qualify
  • 1992 – Group Stage
  • 1996 – Group Stage
  • 2000 to 2016 inclusive – failed to qualify
  • 2020 – Group Stage

So, in summary, Scotland have made it to the finals of the UEFA European Championship just three times before. In each of these three appearances, they have fallen at the same stage, technically speaking at least, and have never made it past the Group Stage. So, the first target for 2024 is obviously to book their place in a fourth finals but then should they manage that, Clarke and co. Would love to make history by becoming the first Scottish team to make it out of their group.

1992: Scotland at the Euro for First Time

After trying to make the finals six times and failing, the Scots finally qualified for the 1992 finals, losing just one of their eight games. Andy Roxburgh was the man at the helm, whilst the squad included the likes of Richard Gough, Ally McCoist, Stuart McCall, Gary McAllister and a young Duncan Ferguson.

Back in 1992 just eight teams made it through to the finals, which were held in Sweden, and Scotland were drawn alongside Netherlands, Germany and CIS (essentially the Soviet Union) in Group 2. They were narrowly beaten 1-0 by defending champions Netherlands in their first match, Dennis Bergkamp grabbing the winner. They lost 2-0 to Germany next but won their final game 3-0 against CIS to avoid the wooden spoon in the group.

1996: Scots Narrowly Miss Out on Last Eight

In what was something of a mini-golden era for the Scots they secured their place at Euro 96 with many of the same players who were at the previous European Championship. The addition of Colin Hendry and Colin Calderwood, from Blackburn and Spurs respectively, brought extra ability and experience at the back, and 10 of the squad plied their trade in England.

This expanded tournament was the first with 16 teams, meaning four groups of four nations, once again the top two from each group progressing to the knockout phase. Scotland earned a superb draw with Netherlands in their first game, the match ending 0-0. They then went down 2-0 to England at Wembley but that score does not tell the whole story by any means.

Scotland very much held their own in the first period and so England boss Terry Venables changed things at the break with the introduction of Jamie Redknapp. This gave England more control in the centre of the pitch and shortly after the break, Alan Shearer scored. Even so, Craig Brown’s side continued to give as good as they got and shortly after David Seaman made a fine save from a Gordon Durie header.

The key moment came a little later on as Durie was fouled by Tony Adams inside the area to give the Scots a penalty. Seaman saved from McAllister and the atmosphere in Wembley was predictably supercharged. Relief turned to ecstasy less than two minutes later, as Gazza scored one of the Euros’ great goals.

A Seaman clearance was worked forward and Gazza deceived Hendry with a brilliant turn, taking the ball on the volley and cutting inside the Scot. Without letting the ball touch the ground the mercurial midfielder volleyed home from 18 yards. The prospect of 1-1 suddenly turned into the reality of 2-0 to England and, for just a moment in time, many began to believe that maybe football was “coming home”. It wasn’t.

Things got even crueller for Scotland as despite winning their final group game 1-0 they were eliminated behind Netherlands despite being tied on points, head-to-head result and goal difference. The Dutch advanced thanks to having scored more goals and the Scots were sent home, though looking on the bright side they at least didn’t have far to travel.

2020: Draw with Auld Enemy Only Bright Spot

Scotland advanced to Euro 2020 (which was delayed until 2021) via the play-off route, having finished a distant third in Group I behind Belgium and Russia. They got past Israel and Serbia to earn a spot in Group D at the finals against England, Croatia and the Czechs. Scotland was one of 11 host nations and Steve Clarke’s men played every game aside from their match with England on home soil.

Ironically that game at the supposed cauldron of Wembley was the only one where the Scots avoided defeat in what was a poor performance. They lost 2-0 to an average Czech side before earning a deserved 0-0 draw with eventual runners-up England. They were then soundly beaten 3-1 in their final game, finishing 22nd of 24 teams according to UEFA’s ranking system.