Clarke stays calm as confident Scotland roll on to Euros playoff

Clarke stays calm as confident Scotland roll on to Euros playoff

Steve Clarke believes Scotland have to stay calm ahead of next month's Euro 2020 playoff final in Serbia after stretching an unbeaten run to eight games with a 1-0 Nations League win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

Steve Clarke

Ryan Fraser scored the only goal at Hampden as Clarke's men took a commanding grip on Nations League Group B2, holding a four-point lead over the Czechs with two games remaining.

Winning the group could lead to a playoff to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, but Scotland's immediate focus is on reaching a first major tournament for 22 years when they travel to Serbia on November 12.

"We're aware of how big the game is next month," Clarke told Sky Sports. "It's important to stay focused, calm, stick to what we are good at and improve again."

Scotland are beginning to reap the rewards of Clarke's ability to organise a defence as they recorded a third clean sheet in a week after seeing off Israel on penalties in the Euro playoff semi-finals and another 1-0 victory over Slovakia in the Nations League.

"It shows the tweak we made last month seems like the right decision," Clarke added on his switch to a 5-3-2.

That run is all the more impressive as Clarke was robbed off three of his better players in Stuart Armstrong, Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie for all three games after Armstrong tested positive for coronavirus, while Tierney and Christie were forced into self-isolation due to being close contacts.

Captain Andy Robertson was also suspended for the Czechs visit on Wednesday, but all four should be back to face Serbia.

"It's been a big squad effort over the 10 days we've been in camp," said Clarke. "We are trying to keep the momentum we’re built over the last few games."

The home side had to ride their luck after smart play by Lyndon Dykes teed up Fraser to slot home the only goal on six minutes.

"It just shows we've got the chance to come together and be successful," said Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn, who deputised for Robertson as captain.

"The first thing we had to sort was keeping clean sheets, three clean sheets (in a row) is brilliant.

"Hopefully we can use this as confidence going into the Serbia game."

The Czechs dominated after conceding the early goal, but were denied by a combination of dogged defending and wayward finishing.

Matej Vydra was guilty of missing a host of chances, the best of which the Burnley striker blasted wide at the back post midway through the first half.

Tomas Soucek somehow spooned over from inside the six-yard box six minutes from time, but Scotland clung on and could even have added a second when Oli McBurnie smashed a shot off the crossbar from outside the box.

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