Scotland could seal Euro 2024 qualification as soon as next week after confidently sweeping aside Cyprus in Larnaca to maintain their 100% start in Group A.
Goals in the opening half hour from Scott McTominay, Ryan Porteous and John McGinn set up a straightforward night for Steve Clarke’s side, who earned a fifth straight win in the section.
It means Scotland need just two points from their remaining three qualifiers – away to Spain and Georgia, then at home against Norway – to guarantee an appearance at back-to-back European Championships.
However, their place in next summer’s finals in Germany could be secured as early as Tuesday if Norway and Georgia draw in Oslo.
While that match is going on, the Scots will be hosting England in a friendly at Hampden (19:45 BST) and will do so in fine form.
Having won their previous 10 group qualifying matches in a row before the trip to Cyprus, Clarke’s men put in a performance which justified the pre-match confidence of fans and pundits, and underlined their strong run.
After just six minutes, McTominay nodded in the opener when McGinn flicked Andy Robertson’s cross into his path, and 10 minutes later Porteous stabbed in his first Scotland goal after a deep free kick.
McGinn then effectively sealed a huge victory as he finished a flowing move involving Billy Gilmour, Che Adams and McTominay by curling the ball home from the edge of the box.
The serenity of it all must have felt surreal to the more than 4,000 Scotland fans who packed out the AEK Arena, and many will now be booking flights to Germany for next summer.
There is always a narrative around Scotland about messing up qualification campaigns. Glorious failure is in the DNA, some cry.
It is understandable given previous failures this century, but it ignores the evidence this team has produced regularly. It is now 11 straight group qualifying wins, with only one goal conceded and 12 scored in this campaign.
Clarke has built a miserly team which has added layers to its game. McTominay, having only played seven minutes for Manchester United this season, grows as a player in a Scotland shirt, and is on course for a record-breaking year in dark blue. Nobody has scored more in European qualifying so far.
McTominay, McGinn, Gilmour and Callum McGregor provide a wonderful mix of poise and physicality in midfield, there is dynamism from the wing-backs Robertson and Aaron Hickey, and left centre-back Kieran Tierney. Depth backs them up from the bench.
It all seems to work and flow, to the point Scotland will not just fancy themselves to reach the Euros – that seems inevitable – but create far more of an impact at the tournament than they managed in 2021, when they went out with a whimper in the group stage.
That is the target Clarke has set this side. And with his nous and steely determination, they are on course to achieve it.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke: “Another win in the process to try to qualify for another major tournament. That’s been the aim since the start.
“To win five games in the group is great, it’s what we want to do, but we’re not there [yet].
“Everyone can get excited, the Tartan Army can get excited; we’ll just stay level-headed. We’ve got a really tough game in Spain next month, and if we’ve got to go there and get something then that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Scotland midfielder Scott McTominay: “I just want to make people in Scotland happy, that’s my job, and the team’s job, and I think we’re doing it well at the minute.
“We have to keep a lid on it. We’ve got a really good squad, full of great characters. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground, keep trying to win games and not concede goals.
“The job’s not finished, we need to really push – we don’t want to lose our unbeaten streak.”