By Gavin McCafferty, PA
Callum McGregor feels his best result in a Scotland shirt has been coming as Steve Clarke’s squad pick up more international experience.
The Celtic captain followed up winning a half-century of caps in style by delivering a typically busy and effective performance in the heart of midfield to help Scotland beat Spain 2-0 on Tuesday.
Goals early in each half from Scott McTominay carried Scotland to a memorable night at Hampden and Clarke’s side could have had more, with John McGinn hitting the bar and Lyndon Dykes missing a glorious chance.
The result puts Scotland three points clear at the top of Group A in Euro 2024 qualifying and five points ahead of Norway after two matches.
Team 🏴#SCOESP pic.twitter.com/GwBdR2sWHA
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) March 29, 2023
When asked where the win ranked in his Scotland career, 29-year-old McGregor said: “Probably right at the top. That’s the one that’s been coming, against a big nation. The way we played, really comfortable in the game, carried out the game plan excellently, that should give us a lot of confidence going forward.
“It’s brilliant. As a young kid I watched the last one here (against Spain) in 2010 or 2011, I was in the stands watching it and we nearly got a result that night.
“But to be on the pitch and deliver a result for the supporters and the nation is fantastic, it’s something that we are all really proud of.
“This is why we play football, to give supporters nights like this, to give the nation nights like this.
“As the group has got stronger, it’s probably a result we have been looking to pick up for a while.
“When you get more experience in the group, boys get more caps, they start to feel better at this level, and that’s what we have now. We have a strong core with a lot of caps and a lot of experience and have been building towards a result like this.
“But it’s important we take the positives and keep our feet on the ground. By no means are we qualified.
“It’s been a great night, hopefully the supporters enjoyed it, hopefully the nation enjoyed it, but we come back in June and we have to reset and go again.”
🔝 Top of the group after two matchdays!#SCOESP pic.twitter.com/KUOUtAzKUa
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) March 28, 2023
Scotland face a trip to Norway and a home tie against Georgia in mid-June and will no doubt face a different Spanish side in October.
Spain head coach Luis de la Fuente made eight changes following his debut win over Norway on Saturday and McGregor admits they looked to take advantage of the selection decisions, which saw the likes of Gavi and Dani Carvajal start on the bench.
When asked if the team news had given Scotland a lift, McGregor said: “Yeah, I think naturally when you see a… I wouldn’t call it a second-string team, obviously they are good players with really good ability.
“They obviously felt they could play that team and get a result. So it was important we tried to show the opposite, that we were going after the game, that we felt good about our team and tactics and how we wanted to carry out the game plan.
“To score so early obviously gives everyone a boost and gives you something to hold on to.
“When the game gets more desperate they pour more forward and we get the second one, which was excellent.
“I thought we were in good control of the game as well, we didn’t overly look as if we were going to concede goals. The team was strong, the foundation was good, so overall it was a really good night.
“We were as comfortable as you can be in that mid-block. We made it hard for them and hard for their playmakers to get on the ball. It was really good from the management team about he structure of the team and where we wanted them to have the ball, and then just pressing on the little triggers to give us a chance to get back up the pitch.
“Angus (Gunn) had one or two saves in the second half, that shows how comfortable we were in that mid-block.
“But it’s only two games and we have to come back in June ready to go.”