Lawrence Shankland names the weight that's been lifted off his shoulders as Hearts hero sets clear Euro 2024 focus

Scotland's striker Lawrence Shankland celebrates after scoring the second goal against FinlandScotland's striker Lawrence Shankland celebrates after scoring the second goal against Finland
Scotland's striker Lawrence Shankland celebrates after scoring the second goal against Finland | AFP via Getty Images
The Hearts striker scored his third international goal against Finland - and hopes he can capitalise on any chance that falls his way at the Euros

Lawrence Shankland will attempt to cap off a tremendous season for club and country by making his mark Scotland at this summer’s European Championships.

The Hearts talisman is hoping his performance during Friday night’s 2-2 draw with Finland was enough to earn him a place in Steve Clarke’s starting XI to face host nation Germany in the tournament opener on Friday.

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It has been a campaign that will live long in the memory of PFA Scotland’s ‘Player of the Year’. But there’s one thing missing from his glittering CV. Scoring a goal at a major tournament and the chance to become a national hero. With the Group A favourites up first in Munich, before matches against Switzerland and Hungary to follow in the next few weeks, Shankland is ready to take it all in his stride.

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“I think it’s just about going out there and enjoying it,” the 28-year-old told the Edinburgh Evening News when asked about his thought process heading into the tournament. “The whole experience will be amazing and we’ll take that in for a couple of days before we get to the first game. The games will just be business as usual. Obviously, it will be a big event with it being the opening ceremony and the whole song and dance round about it. But for us, all the focus is going towards the 90 minutes of football.

“Everybody in the changing room has made sacrifices in their career and these are the pinnacle moments in your career you want to be involved. It will be a special feeling for everybody, so we’ll all be in the same boat. We’ve done the hard work to get here by qualifying on merit, so it’s now about facing up to the challenge. We’re all looking forward to it and there’s a real buzz in the camp.”

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Scotland have qualified for 11 major tournaments but have yet to progress beyond the group stages. Quizzed on whether he believes the current crop of players are capable of creating history by becoming the first team to achieve such a feat, Shankland responded: “Yes, why not? You need to go there with belief that you can get out the group.

“I wasn’t there (at Euro 2020), but I know there was disappointment around how things turned out. Some of the boys are looking to improve on that, but it won’t be easy. Hopefully we can put ourselves in the mix, though. Obviously, you’re experience of playing in tournaments like this grows from being at them so I’m sure the boys that were part of that squad learned a lot from it.

“I’ve watched some documentaries and stuff on previous Scotland squads. I was only three (for Euro 98’), so I don’t remember it vividly. But you watch these tournaments all your life and you’re always tuning into the first game. For us to be a part of that will be quite special.

“There’s always upsets here and there. Germany are a very strong team, it’s being played in their home country so there will be a big expectation on them to perform well. But we’ll go there in a confident frame of mind. We’ve got results against Spain in qualifying, so we’ve done it against some top teams and that’s what we’ll go there to do.”

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The pressure had been mounting on Shankland to end his international goal drought after drawing a blank against Gibraltar in Faro earlier in the week. His late equaliser against Georgia last November seemed a lifetime ago and there was a feeling in the air on Friday in Mount Florida that the Jambos captain could really benefit from hitting the back of the net when the Finns rocked up at Hampden for their final warm-up match.

Maligned slightly in recent outings for the national team, Shankland still knows exactly where the goal is and he duly delivered after the break, having spent much of the opening 45 minutes living off scraps. He displayed good strength to nip in front of his marker before nodding home Andy Robertson’s cross at the back post.

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A weight off his shoulders? “Aye, it felt good to get back on the mark,” he confessed. “The relief was probably from listening for the crowds reaction, to be honest because I didn’t know where the ball went when it hit me on the head. It was a good feeling when they eventually cheered. “It’s part and parcel of being a striker. I believe that if you play well then the goals will come. It’s about getting used to the players around you also. It’s a change from club football and I’ve not had a lot of opportunities to play with these players. I had one other chance in the first half but snatched at it a bit, so it was just about getting into the right positions again.

“I tried to address my positioning in the box in the second half and thankfully Andy (Robertson) managed to find me, so delighted to get that goal under my belt. I’ve came into this camp off the back of a really good season, that’s why I’m here. Scoring goals hasn’t been a massive problem for me, so hopefully if the ball drops to me in Germany, I can stick it away.”

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