Mark Leonard is confident that Scotland Under-19s have what it takes to qualify for the 2020 European Championships.
A stunning goal from Josh McPake sealed a 1-0 win for Billy Stark’s men against Germany on Tuesday night, securing top spot in qualifying group three in the process.
The youngsters have now gained passage to the Elite round of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, which takes place in March.
For Under-19s captain Leonard, the next step is now the most important for him and his teammates.
He said: “I think this squad has what it takes to qualify for the Euros.
"After topping the group, it will hopefully make our draw for the next round more favourable. We have to just keep doing what we have been doing and continue to carry out what the manager tells us."
He added: "There’s a few months until the Elite round so all of us will now focus on working hard at our clubs and coming back fitter and stronger for the next round of matches.”
The impressive victory over Germany not only ensured Scotland’s place in the Elite round but also see's the youngsters head in to those games as group winners.
The top seven sides from the Elite round will then join hosts Northern Ireland at next summer’s European Under-19 Championship finals.
Leonard believes the showing against Germany is an example of the youngsters ability to go toe-to-toe with anyone.
He said: “The boys dug in deep from the start of the game. We knew it was going to be tough because Germany are a top side. But we carried out what the manager told us to do and, in the end, got the result we wanted. We are all still absolutely buzzing with the win.
“We’ve beaten a lot of the top sides now and it’s becoming more natural to us, so we’ve got to keep up these performances going.
“For me personally to captain the side on a night like tonight was excellent. All my family were here watching and seeing them in the stand at the end I just wanted to burst into tears. It was that good a feeling.”
McPake’s goal came on the stroke of half time and was courtesy of a perfect through ball from Leonard’s midfield partner Dean Campbell. After a free kick was cleared by Germany, Campbell latched onto a loose ball 25 yards from goal and slipped a disguised through ball to McPake who skipped past his man and beat German ‘keeper Diant Ramaj at his near post.
Leonard said: “When Dean [Campbell] had the ball we were all shouting at him to get it into the box but he took a better option and played the ball through for Josh. The goal was brilliant, Josh showed his quality with that finish by producing a bit of magic.
“When that goal went in it was like a dream. We approached the game confident in our own ability but also with an aim to frustrate Germany, like Andorra and Belarus had done to us in previous games. To get that goal settled everyone down and I think we knew we had it from there because we were confident they weren’t going to score into us.”
Scotland could have added to McPake’s goal in the second half and were unlucky not to. Kai Kennedy went close and Ethan Ross was brought down for what looked like a certain penalty when played through one on one.
Leonard admitted it could have been a bigger scoreline. He said: “We had plenty of opportunities to score more goals in the second half. Kai’s hit a free kick against the post and there was a number of other opportunities. They were a great side, really good defensively and we’ve matched them in every department and created lots of chances. At end of the day it was a very even game, but we deservedly came out on top.”