Scotland boss Steve Clarke issues ‘don’t stand still’ warning and provides injury update

Steve Clarke has a fit squad of players to choose from against Israel as Scotland seek to move a step closer reaching the next World Cup.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the win over Czech Republic last month. He wants his side to keep progressing (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the win over Czech Republic last month. He wants his side to keep progressing (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

A win in Netanya in their final game will guarantee Scotland finish top of their Nations League group and secure automatic promotion to Pool A. It will also increase their chances of gaining a play-off berth for Qatar 2002 as the Scots seek to make it two major finals in-a-row after confirming their place at Euro 2020 against Serbia last week.

“It has taken us a long time to get back to qualifying,” acknowledged Clarke. “We don’t want to wait as long for the next one. In fact I don’t want to wait very long at all, I want to qualify for Qatar 2022 and so do the players.

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“It has to be the start of something else, it has to be,” he stressed. “The Euros are there, I have told the players the Euros are in a cupboard.

“Now we forget about the Euros until April. We need to have a good start in the World Cup qualifying. Obviously a nice favourable draw in December would be great. But then we have three World Cup matches in March, so we can’t get ahead of ourselves. The World Cup is the next target.”

Scotland will be in in Pot 3 at that draw which Clarke describes as progress. European sides’ road to the World Cup features a qualifying group stage comprising five groups of six teams and five groups of five teams. The games will all take place between March and November next year. The ten group winners will qualify directly for Qatar 2020 with the ten runners-up advancing to the play-offs. If Scotland can finish top of their Nations League group it will also mean they have secured a second place seeding – at least – for the Euro 2024 qualifiers. A lot remains at stake.

“We’ve created that history, now we need to move on to the next chapter,” said Clarke. “You can’t stand still. Maybe as a nation we were guilty of standing still too long – and everybody went past us. We are in a position now where we are in a position to catch up, we are trying to catch up. We don’t want to lose that momentum. We want to keep going.”

Clarke is helped in this regard by being able to report a clean bill of health for his players prior to a third game in just seven days. Skipper Andy Robertson is poised to return along with Manchester United’s Scott McTominay which leaves the manager in a position to select the side that performed so well in Belgrade, should he so desire. Striker Lyndon Dykes is also available again after suspension. Stuart Armstrong is ruled out after being booked against Slovakia. According to Clarke, everyone else able to play is fit and ready to do so.

“Everybody is fit and available, so that is a positive,” said Clarke. “Now I have the difficult decision on getting the balance of the team right and making sure we are ready to go tomorrow.”

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