‘Could have been tougher but dangerous draw’ – Scotland boss Steve Clarke

Scotland boss Steve Clarke was cautiously optimistic after his team avoided one of the major European nations in their World Cup qualifying group.

But Clarke warned that the two teams ranked above the Scots in Group F – Denmark and Austria – must not be taken lightly.

Scotland were also handed encounters with Israel, Faroe Islands and Moldova in the race to reach Qatar 2022.

“I think it could have been a tougher draw but it’s also a dangerous draw,” Clarke said.

“The Danes and Austrians have got a really good record recently and also they are in pot one and pot two for a reason: it means they have been consistently better than us over the past few years. So we have to be careful of them.

“The Israelis we know everything about. We know they are a dangerous team as well, we actually lost to them the last game we played.

“So without being disrespectful to the two minnows in the group, we have to be happy with the draw but very, very wary that it will be a dangerous draw as well.”

The other top seeds were Belgium, holders France, England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland and 2018 runners-up Croatia.

Denmark beat England at Wembley in October
Denmark beat England at Wembley in October (Toby Melville/PA)

When put to him that it was good to avoid a “big-hitter”, Clarke said: “I suppose it is but that would also be a bit disrespectful towards Denmark, because they are also a big-hitter, with a lot of good players, and a really good record of qualifying for major tournaments in recent years, and a strong team.

“So I don’t think we can get too far ahead of ourselves. In my opinion we are still a work in progress, we have still got a lot of work to do to become a better national team.

“I keep saying to the players, we have to stay humble and keep working hard. If we do that, we might get our rewards.”

Scotland were paired with Israel for the fourth time in three years, having finished above them in two Nations League groups and knocked them out of the Euro 2020 play-offs.

Scotland beat Israel on penalties in October
Scotland beat Israel on penalties in October (Andrew Milligan/PA)

But the Israelis have won two of the five recent meetings and one of Scotland’s two victories came on penalties.

“When you’ve got so many teams coming out the pots you’re hoping something different will come out,” Clarke said.

“Listen, both teams know each other inside out, we have played each other a lot.

“We will look forward to playing the Israelis again. Always good games, always good technical games, and it’s a chance to pit our wits against each other again.

“Hopefully this time we can find a better solution than we did the last time.”

Berti Vogts endured misery in Moldova
Berti Vogts endured misery in Moldova (PA)

Scotland also have unhappy memories of facing the two lower-ranked teams in the group.

A 1-1 draw in Moldova cost Berti Vogts his job in 2004 and Scotland have twice drawn with the Faroes.

“When you look historically at Scotland’s qualifying campaigns, it’s normally one of the so-called smaller nations that trip us up,” Clarke said. “So I don’t think we will be found wanting on that one.

“I remember one time I was sitting watching the Faroe Islands 2-0 up against Scotland and you’re thinking ‘this can’t happen’.

“But it’s football and it can happen, so we have to be on our guard and treat everybody with the same respect.”

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS