Steve Clarke keen on Scotland finishing Euro 2024 qualification with more points

By Sports Desk November 15, 2023

Scotland manager Steve Clarke is focused on finishing their Euro 2024 qualification campaign on a high after sealing their place in Germany amid a hat-trick of defeats.

A 2-0 loss in Spain was sandwiched by friendly defeats against England and France, but five wins from their opening five games in Group A proved enough for a second successive qualification for the European Championship finals after the Spaniards won in Norway.

With a five-month international hiatus to follow, Clarke is eager to ensure Scotland come away from their final competitive matches with points against Georgia and Norway before next summer’s tournament in Germany.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s clash in Tbilisi, Clarke said: “The idea with the friendly matches against England and France was to test ourselves against the best and see where we measure up.

“Obviously with the results we had, we still have a bit of work to do. We will try to stay humble, respect our opponents and just try to improve all the time.

“Listen, we want to get back to winning ways. It’s not very often in the reign that I have had, apart from the early stages, that we have had consecutive defeats like we have had recently.

“It would be nice to think in the remaining two games we can pick up more points.

“I have always said we want to get as high a points tally as possible and (we have) two more games to try and do that.”

Scotland have lost their previous two games in Georgia, defeats which ultimately prevented them from qualifying for Euro 2008 and 2016.

Clarke’s side have shown the ability to break such negative runs, for instance securing the first play-off success and ending a 23-year wait for a major tournament appearance.

“Listen, in sport what’s past is past, there is nothing we can do to affect that,” Clarke said of the history in Tbilisi. “All we can do is affect the future, the next game we play.

“We have always tried to improve results no matter who we are playing against.”

Georgia lost 7-1 at home to Spain in September but they beat Cyprus 4-0 in their most recent qualifier and are assured of a Euro 2024 play-off place thanks to a Nations League campaign which included big wins in Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

Clarke said: “When you go away from home against a team like Georgia, it’s going to be a difficult environment, a difficult game for us, because they are a very good side.

“The one game they lost heavily was against Spain and that’s a little bit of an anomaly in recent games, because all their games have been very competitive. And we expect that on Thursday night.”

Clarke is without the likes of Angus Gunn, Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Aaron Hickey and Che Adams, but he hopes players such as Josh Doig and Lawrence Shankland can seize the opportunity that injury list presents.

“Over the course of my tenure I have always tried to look a little bit deeper,” he said.

“There will be some squads like this one where we have a number of players missing. But I always say it’s a chance for someone else.

“If everyone else can do better it makes my selection more difficult going into next year. The selection will be difficult. I have to find the right 23 for next summer.

“For now, some boys are in the squad with the chance to make a big impression, not just on me but the rest of my staff and the rest of the country. Let’s see how they perform in the game.”

Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark and Motherwell captain Liam Kelly are vying for competitive debuts after both played 45 minutes against France to win their first caps.

Clarke, who also has Rangers reserve Robby McCrorie in his squad, was not giving anything away on his stand-in choice.

Speaking from Scotland’s training camp in Antalya, Turkey, he said: “The three goalkeepers have trained very well, as they always do, and between now and kick-off I will obviously have to choose one.”

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