Steve Clarke says Scotland have ‘lots to improve’ after defeat to France

By Sports Desk October 17, 2023

Steve Clarke has told his Scotland players to “stop this run” of defeats next month after losing 4-1 to France in Lille.

The Scots went into the friendly knowing they had qualified for the 2024 European Championships after Spain beat Norway at the weekend to ensure a top-two finish in Group A.

Scotland had lost 2-0 to Spain last week on the back of a 3-1 loss to England at Hampden Park in the 150th Heritage Anniversary match and the French were even classier.

Clarke made eight changes from Seville – goalkeepers Liam Kelly and Zander Clark played a half each on their debuts.

Scotland stunned the home side when midfielder Billy Gilmour guided in the opener after 11 minutes – his first ever senior goal.

However, France defender Benjamin Pavard scored two headers, skipper Kylian Mbappe added a third from the spot before the break after a VAR intervention saw referee Tobias Stieler judge Scotland defender Liam Cooper had held Olivier Giroud and substitute Kingsley Coman hammered in a fourth.

After victory in their first five Euro qualifiers, Scotland have lost three in a row and Clarke wants to get that winning feeling back in the final two qualifiers against Georgia next month before the final game against Norway.

He said: “We can take away the memory of the qualification but we lost two games in the camp.

“We don’t like losing. I don’t want them to be comfortable losing or happy to lose.

“We spoke about that after the game. It is important we set our standards higher than that.

“We have lost three in a row now and I have asked them to make sure that when we got to Georgia that we stop this run.

“We want to finish on the same points as Spain so the target is to finish with 21 point which will make it a good campaign.”

Clarke, who was “happy” with his team selection, acknowledged the superiority of the home side.

He said: “I thought we started the game really well, the first 15 minute was good and we got ourselves in front.

“To concede a goal from a corner was disappointing because we know France can score from open play and we try not to give goals away from set plays.

“The third goal – I don’t think VAR should have got involved in the decision, it was soft and when the referee goes there he has to be strong to stick with his original decision.

“Both players were at it and that takes the game away from us.

“The second half was OK but France are always a threat with their pace and power and quality.

“So lots to learn, lots to improve. We know we are not at that level yet.

“It is level we are going to strive to get to and the harder we strive the better team we will be.”

After sealing qualification to Euro 2024 with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands on Friday, France boss Didier Deschamps was happy to finish the camp off with a convincing win

He said: “It was a very good week, When you win you are always happy.

“The most important thing was against the Netherlands on Friday night and the fact that we have shown so much quality tonight as well, it is a great satisfaction for us.

“We created lots of chances against a team that can defend pretty well and has a lot of qualities. So we are very happy.”

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