Former Scotland boss makes penalties prediction for Euro 2020 play-off in Serbia
The last man to lead Scotland’s men to a major tournament reckons Steve Clarke will match his achievement with a win on Thursday night.
Former Scotland manager Craig Brown will be watching Scotland try to reach next year’s delayed Euro 2020 championship when they take on Serbia in Belgrade.
Now a director at Aberdeen, the 80-year-old believes the national side have what it takes to sneak through to next summer – but it won’t make easy viewing – and is tipping one of the ex-Pittodrie players to make the difference.
“I’m predicting that we will take them to penalties, and Kenny McLean will be brought on to score the winner again,” he said.
Midfielder McLean, now at Norwich City, scored the decisive spot-kick in last month’s shoot-out win over Israel in the play-off semi-final on a nerve-wracking night at Hampden and set up Thursday night's make-or-break match in the Balkans.
Brown added: “If Serbia were at full strength, I would be quite concerned about the game although we are playing well just now. If it is the case that some of Serbia’s top players are not playing then I’m very, very optimistic.
"I would very much fancy us if they miss the Scotland game. I’ve just got a wee feeling.”
If Brown’s prophecy comes true Scotland will be back at Hampden next summer and in a European Championship group with England, Croatia and Czech Republic. He was in charge the last time Scotland not only played in a major tournament at the World Cup in 1998, but was also in charge for the Euro 96 campaign in England.
Speaking to The Motherwell Times he added: “Scotland has only ever qualified for two European Championships – 1992 and 1996 – and that is quite a remarkable statistic. Again, I was fortunate, I was at those two.
HOW TO WATCH: Serbia v Scotland – Euro 2020 play-off final
“But then we haven't qualified for anything in the last 22 years and that’s quite depressing. In the 12 years before 1998 we were at five tournaments.
“At Euro 96 we missed out on qualifying for the quarter-finals by one goal, so we were desperately unlucky there.”
Brown eventually left the Hampden dug-out in 2001, replaced by Berti Vogts, and since then a succession of managers – including Walter Smith, Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan – have been unable to return the national side to the top table.
He added: “I stayed for four tournaments and we got out of the group in three of them,” Brown said. “When we failed to qualify for the 2002 finals, I was so ashamed that I resigned because we were so used to qualifying.“I thought: ‘This is a disgrace, we’ve not qualified’ and it was a very near miss in a good group. They might have sacked me anyway because I’d been in for eight years.”
Scotland are set to be without Ryan Fraser for the match, which kicks off at 7.45pm and will be shown on Sky One, PICK! and Sky Sports Football on Thursday evening.
Serbia are facing an anxious wait on the fitness of Ajax captain Dusan Tadic, and the travelling restrictions affecting Serie A duo Nikola Milenkovic and Dusan Vlahovic.