Scotland boss Steve Clarke looking to make history after nervy shoot-out win sets up Euro 2020 showdown with Serbia
Steve Clarke says Scotland will approach next month’s Euro 2020 showdown with Serbia with confidence after scraping through their play-off semi-final against Israel.
Scotland required a penalty shoot-out to get past a side ranked 44 places below them in the FIFA standings after a largely uninspiring performance over 90 minutes and extra-time at Hampden.
However, Clarke, who had his preparations disrupted by six late call-offs, said the match went exactly as expected as he hailed his players for holding their nerve to book their trip to Belgrade on November 12 where victory will book their place at a major finals for the first time since World Cup 98.
"It's another step towards hopefully making history for the country," Clarke said. "Qualification for Euro 2020 is still in our hands.
"We know we have a tough game going to Serbia next month but it's one we'll look forward to after we play Slovakia and Czech Republic at home.
"As a group of players and as a squad I think we're developing. I can feel that there's something building.
It's another game unbeaten and these things are important when you go into the dressing room after the game and you feel that elation.
"The lads put everything into the game, you can't fault the effort and honesty of the players, and they got their reward in the end.
"It was exactly the game I expected. A tense, nervy affair with very few shots on target. Tonight was not about digging out a result, it was being careful not to concede in a game that was probably going to be decided by one goal.
"We didn't blink first, they blinked first and we won the penalty shootout."
Clarke made sure his team practiced penalties during the build-up to the match and the training paid off with Scotland converting all five penalties, the fifth and decisive spot kick coming from Norwich City midfielder Kenny McLean after David Marshall had saved Eran Zahavi’s opening attempt for the away side.
“I've been there before, but this time fortunately we came out on the right side of a penalty shoot-out in a big game,” Clarke said.
“When you do everything properly in the build-up, and I think we did that, obviously with one or two little distractions, you get your reward.
“David (Marshall) made a really good save and we got a little bit lucky with John's first one but he said that's what he aimed for.”
Clarke said he will now make further call-ups to the squad ahead of the Nations League home double-header against Slovakia on Sunday and Czech Republic on Wednesday.
"There's been a massive physical effort tonight especially with the lads that played 120 minutes,” he said.
“We'll give them a couple of days recovery and see how the knocks and niggles are.
“We’re going to have to add two or three players to the squad which we’ll put into motion as quickly as we can.
“It’s going to be very difficult to ask the same starters to start every game so we’re going to have to shuffle the squad a bit.
“We want to put ourselves in a position to win the group.”