The Tartan Army are home alone and looking for someone to shout for


There once was a time when Scotland qualified for major football tournaments.

Every two or four years throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s, the Tartan Army would need to find resourceful ways of getting to the host nations - some even looked into chartering a submarine for Argentina 78.

Now Scotland fans face a far less exciting decision every two years - which team to adopt for a month. This year it's even worse.

(Toby Melville/PA)
(Toby Melville/PA)

The Scottish Football Association was one of the prime movers in expanding the European Championship to 24 teams. The development duly opened up Euro 2016 to a host of smaller countries. But not Scotland.

The only nation on the British Isles not to qualify, Scotland have somehow contrived to organise a huge party yet found themselves outside peering through the window as their neighbours have all the fun.

So who can Scots support to make the tournament more interesting?

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For many, the natural choice is ABE. Anyone But England.

Many others want to be more grown up - but football is not really about being grown up, is it? It's about having a bit of fun at your rivals' expense. Man United fans didn't suddenly start supporting Man City in the Champions League when Louis van Gaal's boys were knocked out last season.

The likes of Diego Maradona, Marco van Basten and Dan Petrescu have become Scottish football heroes after inflicting blows to English campaigns - there are more Tartan Army songs about the Argentinian superstar than Kenny Dalglish.

Romania's Dan Petrescu slide tackles Phil Neville
(Nick Potts/EMPICS Sport)

And it only takes over-exposure to one annoying TV pundit/commentator to convert the most level-headed against Britain's biggest team. And, let's face it, they're not usually in short supply.

But even cheering on the Auld Enemy's enemies is starting to wear thin as Scotland's exile from the big stage hits at least 20 years, and group rivals Slovakia are also in Scotland's World Cup qualifying group. Seeing them do well will only raise fears about the next campaign.

A fair number of Scots will be happy to see the next-door neighbours do well - and some Scotland fans might even fancy the prospect of going to Wembley in the World Cup qualifiers in November and turning over the European champions. Just as Denis Law, Jim Baxter and co did to the World Cup holders in 1967.

Football fans outside Wembley
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

But there might be some vodka downed if Russia beat England and Celtic cousins Wales are likely to be backed during the all-British affair. Few Scots begrudge Wales their place given Scotland's pivotal role in keeping them out of the 1978 and 1986 World Cups with the benefit of at least one dubious handball decision.

There are plenty other neighbours to cheer on though and ancestral ties to each of the Irish teams will ensure support from different quarters for either the Boys in Green or the Green and White Army.

Club fans have plenty of choice to back their players with half of the Scottish Premiership teams represented in France thanks to Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock), Alan Mannus (St Johnstone), Michael McGovern (Hamilton) and Niall McGinn (Aberdeen); Belgium's Dedryck Boyata (Celtic) and Wales goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams (Inverness).

Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis
(Niall Carson/PA)

Triumphs for Germany, Poland or the Republic of Ireland would give Scots the consolation of saying they were knocked out by the eventual winners.
There's also the chance to identify with massive underdogs such as tournament debutants Iceland (population smaller than Edinburgh, and only 700 miles from Shetland) or Albania, whose population is half the size of Scotland.

Maverick superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic could tempt some Scots to throw their weight behind Sweden and favourites might emerge during the competition if someone impresses with their attacking, attractive style of play, as the likes of Croatia and Spain have in the past.

But there's another option altogether.

Argentina's Lionel Messi
(Nicolas Aguilera/AP/PA)

If it proves just too painful to watch half of Europe having fun, then Scots can tune into the Copa America instead and watch the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, James Rodriguez and Luis Suarez.

Euros? What Euros?