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Sheppard's goal now is a place in the squad for Malta

Jake Sheppard scored with his first touch on his debut to ensure that Scotland qualified for the European Under-17 Championship on Wednesday night at Cappielow - the first tournament the Scots have qualified for in six years - and the Reading defender is desperate to play a part in the May Finals in Malta.

Jake Sheppard, centre, celebrates his goal. Picture: SNS
Jake Sheppard, centre, celebrates his goal. Picture: SNS

Scotland have deservedly beaten Belgium 3-1 and Bosnia 2-0 - sides whose senior teams are both tipped to do well at this summer's World Cup Finals in Brazil - in the UEFA Elite group this week and have qualified for the Finals with a game to spare. They face Romania tomorrow with the pressure well and truly off.

After clinching the Victory Shield earlier this year and now sealing their first appearance at a Finals at any level since they reached the 2008 European Under-17 Championship in Turkey, the future looks bright for Scottish football.

The Scots will face hosts Malta and seven other teams in the Finals, with Holland the only other side to have clinched qualification so far. The tournament starts on May 9 and will be played at Attard, Xewkija, and Paola on the islands.

Sheppard came on as a substitute to net the third goal and he is convinced Scotland can make an impact in Malta. He said: "It was my first touch and my debut too, so it was a good start. I was buzzing to get the chance to play international football for Scotland.

"I think we definitely have a bright future. There are quite a few boys playing first-team football already, like Greg Kiltie at Kilmarnock and Craig Wighton at Dundee. Hopefully, a lot of the other boys can push on and start excelling at their clubs, too.

"I've been to about five training camps, but I haven't really had the chance to play in any games. They are a really nice bunch of lads and I get on really well with them. It's just great to be about this squad, especially as we have qualified for the Finals. It would be good to go away and represent Scotland."

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