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Tartan Army looks forward to Euro tour despite tough draw

SCOTLAND supporters were putting on a brave face after the draw for the Euro 2016 ­qualifiers pitted the national side against Germany and Poland in one of the toughest groups in the competition.

BRAVE FACE: Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee, right, and coach Stuart McCall display the qualification group for Euro 2016 after watching the draw with fans. Picture: SNS Group
BRAVE FACE: Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee, right, and coach Stuart McCall display the qualification group for Euro 2016 after watching the draw with fans. Picture: SNS Group

But the draw in Nice has its upside for the fans, who will have the chance to visit new ­destinations and celebrate - as well as likely drowning their sorrows - with some of the finest and cheapest beers and ales available across Europe.

Besides, Germany, Poland and Ireland, Gordon Strachan's men will face Georgia and Gibraltar.

Strachan said: "Every tie, there's something in it. Some groups are mundane, but we are in an exciting one. It's a terrific, terrific draw. We're excited, but it will be competitive.

"We've got a hard group. You never know how it will fluctuate over a couple of years, but if we can keep our players fit, we have a chance."

Scotland's last major ­tournament appearance came at the 1998 World Cup in France, when the team was knocked out in the first round.

The Tartan Army will kick off the road to Euro 2016 with the opening clash against Germany on September 7.

Hamish Husband, a spokesman for the West of Scotland Tartan Army group, said they were already planning bus trips to shuttle Scotland fans to matches in Germany and Ireland.

However, he said fans would be particularly excited to visit new destinations, such as Poland and Georgia.

"We normally get landed with the Group of Death - at least this is just Group Difficult," he said. "So we're looking at a combination of difficulty and enjoyment of the trip. We'll get a great welcome in Germany, and likewise we'll be giving the German fans a great welcome when they come to Hampden.

"We last beat Germany in 1999, when they were European champions, and before that in 1957 when they were world champions, so you can't rule anything out but obviously they will be tough ­opponents. But the bottom line for fans is that you want new places to visit."

He said Georgia and Poland would be "interesting" matches, adding: "We haven't played a competitive match against Poland since 1965." Scotland travel to Warsaw for a friendly next week.

Gibraltar will play their home matches in Portugal, probably in Faro, because there is no suitable stadium on the Rock.

"It's a pity that the Gibraltar match will be played on Portuguese soil, as there would have been a thrill in going out there," Mr Husband said.

"We're looking at three big games for Glasgow though - there will be a big turnout of fans from Germany, Poland and Ireland for those matches, and those will be excellent fixtures."

Fans will be swarming into some of Europe's drinking capitals, supping on everything from Guinness in Ireland to Tyskie, one of Poland's bestselling home-grown beers, not to mention the huge variety of beers and ales available in Germany.

Even the two lesser-known nations in the alcohol stakes will be able to come up with a refreshment or five. The match against Gibraltar, in the tournament for the first time, will see fans cooling off in Portugal with super-cheap Sagres and Super Bock.

The Tartan Army also have experience of inexpensive beer prices in Georgia, where a glass of Kazbegi Tbilisi Beer costs less than 50p.

Tartan Army footsoldier Andy Redmond, 66, said the Georgia trip the last time Scotland played in Tbilisi seven years ago was one of his most memorable.

He said: "A beer then was just 34p - we did enjoy ourselves.

"But we got into the culture of the country too, going up into the mountains to see where the freedom fighters used to hide out.

"I'm especially pleased we'll be playing in Portugal - I hear their wine is very good."

Nations must finish in the top two in their group to qualify for Euro 2016, with the best third-placed finisher also going to France automatically.

The remaining eight third-placed teams will vie for a place in the play-offs held in November next year.

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