Steve Clarke: Scotland boss parks Euro 2020 qualification and targets UEFA Nations League promotion

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has called on his players to “park” their Euro 2020 celebrations and focus on promotion to League A in the UEFA Nations League.

The Scots ended their 22 years of hurt on Thursday night with a penalty-shootout win over Serbia in Belgrade to book their place at next year’s tournament.

Celebrations ran well into the early hours of the morning, with videos posted of the team and coaching staff partying at their hotel.

But now, Scotland are in Slovakia where they will play their penultimate Nations League match, live on Sky Sports, knowing they are one win away from promotion to the top league. And after that, they head to Israel.

Reflecting on the play-off success, Clarke said his players have important work to do which could go towards earning them a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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He said: “It’s a fantastic achievement for this group of players. Thankfully it all came together on Thursday. It’s something we’ve been thinking about and working towards for what seems like over a year.

“We came together on the night but now we have to park that one, put that in the cabinet and think about it in April because before then we’re going to have other matches that are really important for us.

“The celebrations stopped on the night. They enjoyed themselves – it was a good night but it broke up naturally.

“It was a long night and physically and emotionally they were very tired, so they got to sleep. We enjoyed it, we should do after such a long wait.

“But we trained this morning – it was a good training session – and we’re ready for the game on Sunday.

“We’ve had a great run of results that’s put us in a strong position in the little group that we’re in. The players understand the importance of the next games.

“We’re in the Euro 2020 because of the path that Alex McLeish and the players got us to in 2018 – it’s the path that led us to Euro 2020.

“As a nation we understand that it’s a very important tournament for us – the Nations League. This next pathway from the Nations League could be to the World Cup in Qatar 2022 and that’s got to be the target as well.”

Clarke hopes fans can attend Euro 2020

While the players may be turning their attention to Slovakia and the Nations League, Clarke understands the fans will still be rejoicing over Thursday night.

The squad have seen the images from back home and he hopes the Tartan Army will be able to experience the Euros next summer, even if the format changes from 12 host cities.

He said: “From the social media aspect and the fact that media is so readily available now, you get a good feel for how the nation is.

“From what I can gather we definitely made them smile, made them happy, which is great. But we’re a long way away from it, which in a way is going to help me get them refocused on the two important games coming up.

“Hopefully next summer we are in a better position in terms of controlling the virus and maybe getting on top of it and back to normal life.

“But I think wherever it is we can get some spectators in, gets crowds in, get the atmosphere and get a feel of the full occasion that’s the most important thing.

“If it’s going to be in one place and supporters can be there then I think that’s a step forward.”

Scotland will be without the suspended Lyndon Dykes against Slovakia after he picked up a yellow card in their last Nations League game against the Czech Republic.

Captain Andy Robertson is an injury doubt and Clarke said to expect a number of changes to his side after a gruelling 120 minutes and penalties on an emotional night in Belgrade.

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The former Kilmarnock manager said: “I’ve got one or two knocks and niggles. Andy Robertson would be the most doubtful out of the ones that have got a question mark over them for the game. We will give them another 24 hours and see how they are.

“Yes, (we will make changes) but the celebrations have nothing to do with it. It was a good celebration, but wasn’t crazy – it wasn’t over the top. It was a physically draining game but emotionally it was a very draining game for the players.

“I’ll give them another 24 hours and speak to three or four players who I’ve got a doubt about and hopefully come up with a selection that gets us another three points.

“I’m sure there’s a few of them thinking they’ve earned a rest but until I finalise the team selection they’ll not know if they’re getting a rest or not.”



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One person who won’t be running about on Sunday is Scotland assistant coach John Carver, who is on crutches after celebrating David Marshall’s penalty save.

Clarke said: “Unfortunately for John, his injury is a little more serious – he’s on crutches. But as a member of the coaching staff it’s not so important that John runs down the touchline.

“It’s a sore one but I should emphasise he got the injury on the pitch and not when they were doing the conga later on.”

The Scotland conga danced and sang ‘David Marshall’ to Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’, but it was ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ that became the song of the qualification party.

Having started from a leaked Andy Considine stag do video many years ago, the players were seen jumping around the dressing to the tune by Spanish duo Baccara.

Band singer Maria Mendiola revealed she wants to re-record the song with the Scotland team and Clarke said he’ll let someone else decide if it becomes the official Scotland song for the Euros.

He added: “I haven’t even thought about it to be honest. We had the celebration and we had a good night after the game and since then I’ve been thinking about team selection for Slovakia.

“Something like that can be one for the commercial department. It was a good tune and it was fitting for the boys to use that and we had a good night on the back of two or three good tunes, but I’ll let someone else deal with that.”

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