Steve Clarke believes Scotland’s maximum performance against Spain on Thursday night will be good enough to get them at least the point they need to qualify for Euro 2024.

The Scots have won their first five qualifiers including a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over Spain at Hampden Park in March.

Scotland are six points clear of Luis de la Fuente’s side at the top of the table and will qualify for next summer’s finals in Germany if they avoid defeat in Seville or if Norway fail to beat Cyprus on the same night.

Scotland have Georgia away and Norway at home in November to complete their campaign.

Clarke said: “Belief will be part of it, obviously we have to get the tactics right. The players have to put into practise on the pitch what we have spoken about on the training ground.

“They have to play to our maximum and belief is a part of that as well.

“We have to play our game as well as we can and I believe that will be good enough to get something from the game.

“They are a very good team. Obviously they won the Nations League in the summer.

“I think when we played them in March they were probably a little bit in transition between the previous coach and new coach.

“They had a disappointing World Cup campaign so we maybe got them at a good time in March. We know we have to be very good to get a positive result tomorrow night.

“I think we have been constantly improving over my tenure as head coach.

“We are improving all the time, we are striving to improve, trying to add little bits to our game that will make us more competitive against the top teams but we understand we still have a bit to go.”

“But we don’t come here thinking that we have to sit in and defend all night.

“We have to be as effective with the ball as we were at Hampden. We want to get the job done as quickly as possible.

“If we are good enough to get it done tomorrow night that would be great. If not we have two more chances in November and we have those chances because we started the group so well.

“We have 15 points from five games, that is a good start.

“We know we have to get more points to get over the line. Do I think this team will finish the group on 15 points? No, I think we will get more points. Whether that is tomorrow or in November.”

Clarke was diplomatic when asked about Spain captain Rodri, who claimed the way Scotland played at Hampden was “rubbish” as he accused them of wasting time, provoking his team-mates and falling over.

The former Kilmarnock boss said: “I can’t even remember what he said, to be honest. It is not something that I ever get involved in.

“That game was in March, this is October. A totally different game.”

Scotland manager Steve Clarke believes he has the depth and flexibility to cope with the loss of Kieran Tierney for next week’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Spain.

Tierney suffered a hamstring injury while playing for Real Sociedad on Saturday and Clarke has added left-back Greg Taylor and centre-back Liam Cooper to his squad.

Scotland will qualify for next summer’s finals in Germany if they get a point in Seville on October 12.

“First and foremost it’s a shame for Kieran,” Clarke said. “He got a really good move on loan to Sociedad, started really well and obviously picked up what looks like quite a significant injury.

“We will miss him but I know Kieran, he will work as hard as he can to get back as quickly as possible, and we will be there to support him, and hopefully we are waiting on the other side for him as well with some good news.

“The squad is strong, I believe I have good options. It’s nice to be able to call on people like Greg Taylor, who has started the season well with Celtic. Liam Cooper has come back to the squad as well, which gives me another option.”

Clarke devised his three-man central defence to fit Tierney inside wing-back Andy Robertson and does not have another central defender who can carry the ball forward like the Arsenal man.

Scotland took seven points from three Nations League games in September 2022 while playing a back four in the absence of the injured Tierney, and Clarke is considering his options.

“What you have to weigh up is whether you have time on the training pitch to change the team, to change the system,” said Clarke, whose team also face France in a friendly in Lille on October 17.

“This one is a little bit more difficult because it’s a Thursday match, so the first match is difficult in terms of changing the system.

“That’s not to say we won’t do it because we have done it before. If I feel it’s the right way to go, then we can change the system.

“We still have games this week and at the weekend. You have to wait and see which squad actually turns up, hopefully no more injuries. Once I’ve got everybody in camp, we will make a decision on how we are going to go.

“Then we will have two quite short training sessions to work on the tactical side of it, and we will make sure we get that right.

“I think we could easily slot back into it because most of the players play with a back four with their club, so it’s not as if you are asking them to do something they can’t do.

“They proved in that September week of the Nations League that they could adapt very quickly to a different system.

“It’s a system that we quite often change to within games, if we have to get after the game and maybe chase it a little bit. So it’s a system we can use.”

Clarke admitted he was “nowhere” with the possibility of Newcastle pair Harvey Barnes and Elliot Anderson being involved.

Whitley Bay-born Anderson last week indicated he wanted more time to consider his international future, having left the last Scotland camp after two days following his first call-up to the full squad.

England cap Barnes was recently reported to be considering a switch of allegiance but was last week ruled out for three months with a foot injury.

Clarke said: “I haven’t spoken to Harvey for a long time, so nothing on that one.

“Similar with Elliot, he left the last camp and I haven’t spoken to him since. I haven’t picked him for this camp and I move on and work with the players we have got.”

Clarke would not rule out picking Anderson again “if he doesn’t choose England” but added: “Listen, Elliot is a young man making his way in the game. He has got a big decision to make, international-wise, so let’s just give the boy a little bit of time and space to make that decision.”

The only other change sees Luton striker Jacob Brown replace Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland.

Clarke said: “I had a chat with Lawrence, no problems. It was just a decision I wanted to make for this camp.

“Obviously Lawrence was in the last camp but didn’t get any minutes on the pitch and I felt there could be a similar scenario this time.

“I also wanted to have a look at Jacob because he has started quite well at Luton, playing week in, week out in the Premier League.”

Liam Cooper, Greg Taylor and Jacob Brown have been recalled to the Scotland squad for the Euro 2024 qualifier in Spain.

Hearts striker Lawrence Shankland drops out along with, as expected, Newcastle midfielder Elliot Anderson.

Whitley Bay-born Anderson last week indicated he wanted more time to consider his international future, having left the last Scotland camp after two days following his first call-up to the full squad.

Leeds defender Cooper returns from injury while Celtic left-back Taylor replaces Kieran Tierney, who suffered a hamstring injury while playing for Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Luton striker Brown is yet to score in the Premier League since his move from Stoke, while Shankland has gone seven matches without scoring after hitting five goals in his first six games of the season for Hearts.

Scotland have won their opening five games and are six points ahead of second-placed Spain ahead of their trip to Seville on October 12.

Steve Clarke’s side then face France in a friendly in Lille five days later.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke will take stock of his attempts to bring aboard Newcastle pair Elliot Anderson and Harvey Barnes after Tuesday’s Hampden friendly against England.

Whitley Bay-born Anderson, who has a Scottish grandmother, spent two days with Scotland last week before withdrawing from the squad before their trip to Cyprus due to injury.

England manager Gareth Southgate has since expressed admiration for the Newcastle midfielder and stated his backroom team would be taking the situation up.

The 20-year-old has been capped at several levels for Scotland but has also attended an England Under-19 training camp.

Clarke said: “We like the player as well so Elliot will still have that choice to make.

“When I come out of this camp I will look at what we have done, what we have had, what’s occurred over this camp, we will do a debrief on it and then we will shape what we do from there.”

Former Leicester winger Barnes is reported to be considering a switch of allegiance after playing once for England in a friendly win over Wales three years ago.

The 25-year-old was born in Burnley and brought up in Leicestershire but has Scottish grandparents.

When asked about Barnes, Clarke said: “Probably the same comment, to think about that after.

“We want the best players we can possibly get. If they are eligible for Scotland and they have a chance to play for us and they can improve the squad that I’ve got – which is not an easy thing to do…

“And I get all the story round it, because we are playing England you want to speak about Elliot, you want to speak about Harvey.

“I quite like speaking about the boys I have got because they have put us in a really good position and they deserve a lot of credit for that.”

Steve Clarke has not sought any kind of guarantees from Elliot Anderson about the midfielder’s Scotland future.

The  Whitley Bay-born Newcastle United player, who has a Scottish grandmother, has played at youth level for both Scotland and England.

The 20-year-old was called up by the Scotland boss for the first time for the Euro 2024 qualifier against Cyprus in Larnaca on Friday and the challenge match against England at Hampden Park next week after deciding against switching allegiance to England following positive discussions with Clarke.

However,  Anderson officially withdrew from the squad on Wednesday night after picking up an injury in training.

Asked at the pre-match media conference in Cyprus if he had sought any assurances from Anderson, the Scotland boss said: “No. He just went home.”

The Scotland boss had already been asked if he had any fears surrounding international allegiances, and had said: “It is not something I can control.

“There’s not a lot I can do about it.

“Obviously (disappointing not to have the chance to work with Elliot), that’s why we brought him into the squad.

“Disappointing to lose Elliot and Liam (Kelly) on the same day but that’s part and parcel of international football, you deal with it.

“Obviously we had to replaced Liam because we couldn’t come with two goalkeepers so we brought in young Robby (McCrorie). who has been part of the squad before, he understands. We didn’t need to replace Elliot because we have enough midfielders.”

Scotland top Group A with four wins from four and have gone eight competitive games without defeat.

An expected victory against Cyprus, who were beaten 3-0 at Hampden Park, could see Scotland qualify for a second successive Euros next Tuesday if results elsewhere go their way.

However, Clarke – whose side is expected to be backed by around 6,000 fans in a stadium which has a capacity of 8,058 – played down the exciting prospect of going to Germany next summer.

He said: “I am not really the excitable kind, am I? Just concentrating on the game coming up.

“The players are in a good place, they are a good place in the group.

“At halfway we have maximum points, you can’t do much better than that.

“Some of the moments within the game we can improve on.

“We don’t think for a minute that we are the finished article, we will look to improve and the players have said that we will.

“We want to keep improving and improving but always respect the opponent.

“It will be difficult. They are a proud team, proud to represent their country, Cyprus.

“They are always difficult opponents for us.

“Two late goals probably put a little gloss on the scoreline (at Hampden) so we expect a tough game.”

Much is being made of the high temperatures in Cyprus but Clarke was relaxed about the 9.45pm local time kick-off.

He said: “When we came off the plane last night at the back of 10 the conditions were OK.

“It was pretty hot in Norway when we went there so we have some experience and it was nice and sunny in Glasgow when we left so you just have to deal with the conditions as they are and make sure we get the result that we want.”

Scotland will stay humble as they look to battle past Cyprus and keep themselves in the driving seat to qualify for Euro 2024, according to former national team striker Charlie Nicholas.

Steve Clarke’s men are aiming for a fifth straight Group A win in Larnaca on Friday night, which, if other results go their way next week, could see Scotland’s place in the finals confirmed.

Nicholas, who played for Scotland at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, believes Clarke will not allow any thoughts of having already booked a ticket to Germany next summer as his team focus on showing the required mentality in the heat of the AEK Arena.

“This is the first time I can ever recall being in a position of comfort in a group like this. It is a kind of weird experience,” Nicholas told the PA news agency.

“Steve Clarke’s business as a manager is being serious, so the boys will stay humble – and I do think they will get it tough in Cyprus.

“Now this becomes the most important one, because it would give us a really nice buffer if we were to win it, but it will be tight.

“It will be in the heat, which obviously doesn’t complement us, but we have put ourselves in a great position so we must not let it slip now.”

Scotland’s assistant coach John Carver has branded the current squad the “most focused group” he has ever worked with, having seen them beat Spain at Hampden Park in March and then win away in Norway.

Nicholas added: “Looking at these guys, what you have got is a lot of important players playing at top football clubs – even with Kieran Tierney’s move, it is to a top club in Spain (at Real Sociedad).

“There is a lot of knowledge in there and also with that desire – they will be told the whole truth when it comes to these qualifying games, because we are so close to it.

“If we go and win in Cyprus, that doesn’t guarantee us (qualification), but it more or less does – and in Scotland we have learned never to take too much for granted.

“They are a well-respected group with what they stand for together. There is no faking with these guys, they are bang on the money and know where they are trying to get to.”

On September 17, Nicholas will be joining broadcaster Jeff Stelling when he takes on a 34th marathon Football March for Prostate Cancer UK, from Wembley to Wycombe Wanderers, in honour of the late Bill Turnbull.

Former Celtic and Arsenal striker Nicholas lost his father, Chic, to prostate cancer, which affects one in eight men, in December 2009.

The Scot stressed the importance of early diagnosis, which brings with it more options for advanced treatments such as radiotherapy and better life outcomes. 

“I think we (men) are a bit afraid about it, because you don’t want to turn up at the doctors and think you are going to get bad news,” Nicholas said.

“It is scary and it is not nice to go and find out – but the thing is if you have symptoms, then just go and get it checked.

“Because if you sadly have got it and they can spot it early enough, that actually puts you in a good position. It might not sound like it, but you really are.”

:: Jeff Stelling’s Football March 2023 is sponsored by specialist cancer care provider GenesisCare. You can sponsor Jeff to honour Bill’s legacy and help beat prostate cancer via –

Steve Clarke revealed Newcastle midfielder Elliot Anderson had decided against switching allegiance to England following positive discussions with the Scotland manager ahead of his first senior call-up.

Anderson has been called into Clarke’s squad for the Euro 2024 qualifier against Cyprus and a friendly against England.

The 20-year-old has represented Scotland at under-16, under-17 and under-18 level and then played a training-ground friendly for England Under-19s against Arsenal Under-23s in 2021.

The attacking midfielder made a sole Scotland Under-21 appearance against Belgium in June 2022 before turning down further call-ups from Scot Gemmill as he considered his international future.

But Anderson was a surprise inclusion in Clarke’s squad after coming off the bench in all three of Newcastle’s Premier League matches this season.

Whitley Bay-born Anderson, who has a Scottish grandmother, is included ahead of the likes of David Turnbull, who has not been in recent squads but has been back in the Celtic team under Brendan Rodgers.

Clarke said: “Elliot has been through the under-age groups with Scotland, he is one we have had an eye on.

“He had a little think about choosing between Scotland and England. We had some good discussions with the boy and his family and he has chosen to come with us, which is good for us now and certainly good for us in the future.

“He has been with us in general. Obviously when you get to a certain stage in your career and you can see your career is starting to take off, which Elliot’s is at Newcastle…We have got some great reports from people within the club at Newcastle, which is good to hear.

“Then you have to make that choice. Elliot was born in England, he has got decisions to make, and we are just happy he has come down on our side.

“He has been involved in the under-age, he has played in the under-21s, so he has chosen to stay with us and hopefully that turns out to be a good decision for Elliot and ourselves.

“I think it shows how well the boys that I have been picking on a regular basis have done. Qualification for Euro 2020 and obviously we are looking to qualify for another major tournament this time, and we hope we can continue to improve.

“I have always tried to look down towards the under-age groups, the under-21s, to try to give a pathway so that we are not just having a squad for now but looking to build a squad that will carry us through not just the next tournament but the tournament after that and the tournament after that. Elliot is part of that process.”

Clarke also gave hope to Liverpool winger Ben Doak that the 17-year-old was not far off a full call-up.

“Anybody who is doing well for their club, especially at a club like Liverpool, playing off the bench in the English Premier League, they are always going to be close,” he said. “I just feel that on this occasion, it was the right time to bring in Elliot.

“Ben knows that we are watching him, he knows that he is part of the future, but he has to continue doing what he is doing at his club, and he has to continue playing well. If he does that, I’m sure his turn won’t be too far away.”

Che Adams is back in the 25-man squad after missing victories over Norway and Georgia in June through injury.

There are eight defenders in the squad, meaning several players drop out.

There is no place for Blackburn’s Dominic Hyam and Celtic full-backs Anthony Ralston and Greg Taylor but Nottingham Forest centre-back Scott McKenna returns following injury.

Leeds defender Liam Cooper drops out after being ruled out for eight weeks with a foot injury earlier this month, while Ross McCrorie misses out after being a late call-up in the summer.

Scotland are looking to continue their 100 per cent record in the Euro 2024 qualifiers when they take on Cyprus in Larnaca in their fifth group game on September 8.

They then host England at Hampden four days later in a game to mark the 150th anniversary of football’s first international in 1872.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke hailed the character and depth in his squad following their sensational late Euro 2024 qualifying comeback in Oslo.

Clarke’s men stunned Norway with an unlikely turnaround as goals from Lyndon Dykes and substitute Kenny McLean in the final four minutes of normal time earned the Group A leaders a 2-1 victory.

McLean was one of three changes Clarke made in the 79th minute and it proved just in time after Scotland struggled to pose a threat and fell behind to Erling Haaland’s 61st-minute penalty after the striker went down when Ryan Porteous got hold of his shirt.

With Spain not playing, Scotland extended their lead at the top of Group A and moved eight points ahead of third seeds Norway.

Clarke said: “I was pleased with the performance, we were disciplined and passed it quite well at times.

“Obviously, you have got to soak up a lot of pressure against a good Norwegian team. And we never stopped believing. We keep going to the end and got our rewards.

“It says a lot about the character, the spirit, the quality from the bench. One of the things I keep banging on about with this group of players, the quality we have got, they want to do well for their country.

“And when I turn to the bench and I know I need to make changes to freshen it up, I am putting top-quality players on the pitch.

“It was just about getting the timing right. After losing the goal, I felt it was better just to stay in the fight for a little bit to make sure the game didn’t run away from us.

“After that we had to chase the game, it was pretty logical – you are going to take off a defender and push John McGinn a little bit further forward.

“We brought Kenny to the game, Billy Gilmour to the game, brought Stuart Armstrong to the game, fresh legs to try and get forward and they were involved in most of the best things towards the end of the game.

“Even Dominic (Hyam) comes on at the end and sticks his head on a couple. Congratulations to Dominic, first cap, not a bad place to do it, not a bad score.”

Scotland’s win already puts them in a strong position with a perfect record ahead of Tuesday’s visit of Georgia, which will mark the halfway point in the campaign.

Clarke said: “If we want to qualify for major tournaments, you know you have to go away from home against good teams and pick up points. This is three points which is big but we have to go again.

“They are all in there recovering in an ice bath and we have to make sure we get three points on Tuesday to capitalise. It sets us up nicely for Tuesday, I am not looking beyond that.”

Porteous is suspended for Tuesday after picking up a yellow card but Kieran Tierney could feature despite hobbling off, not long after the opener.

When asked how the Arsenal defender was, Clarke said: “Tired. Just tired. He didn’t join us for the training camp. Not released by his club.

“He joined us at the start of this week and felt a bit of tightness in his quad so we just protected him all week.

“To get a good hour out of the lad was fantastic and shows that everybody is prepared to put their body on the line. And then we are bringing on Liam Cooper who is a top-quality defender.”

Norway manager Stale Solbakken – whose side were left bottom of the group – bemoaned the turning point of the game when his defender’s interception fell for Dykes to nudge home.

“It was an accident for Leo Ostigrad. I think it was cramp in both legs at the same time,” he said. “That’s how it is, we can’t blame him for that. I will have to take the blame for not substituting him if it was like that.

“We are in a very difficult position.”

Scotland manager Steve Clarke stressed the need to focus on “Norway the team” rather than become obsessed with trying to stop Erling Haaland.

Haaland goes into Saturday’s Euro 2024 qualifier in Oslo on the back of a 52-goal, treble-winning season with Manchester City and is set to make his first international appearance since September in front of an expectant crowd at the Ullevaal Stadium.

Much of the build-up to the game has been dominated by talk of the 22-year-old striker’s threat, but Clarke and defender Liam Cooper were careful not to overlook the rest of the Norway team – or give them any cause to feel under-appreciated.

Asked about trying stop Haaland, Clarke said: “As we always do, we concentrate on ourselves. We prepare properly for the game, we respect our opponents. We play Norway the team, and hopefully Scotland the team are a little bit better on the night.”

Leeds defender Cooper provided a similar response, saying: “With Erling, his goals and achievements speak for themselves. He has had an unbelievable season at club level, but I don’t like to disrespect the Norway team, they have a lot of good players and to put all our focus on one player, I think that would be wrong of us.

“We obviously know what Erling brings, he is an unbelievable player and unbelievable goalscorer, but we have to pay a lot of respect to the rest of the team as well.

“Obviously (Martin) Odegaard is a very good player, he has also been in a title challenge this year. They have got amazing players. We have to keep Erling and Odegaard in check, but there’s a lot of other players to worry about as well.”

Cooper played as Haaland netted twice at Elland Road earlier this season and, asked what made the forward such a difficult opponent, the 31-year-old said: “For one, he doesn’t need many chances. So you can almost guarantee if he does get a chance it will go away.

“He is strong, he is powerful and he is always on your shoulder, always looking to get in behind. Obviously if we are not on top of our game and we are not cautious of that, he can damage us and he can hurt us.

“But I don’t want to disrespect the rest of the team. We have got to look after the whole of the Norway team and that’s the way it will be.

“We are going to need a big performance, especially a defensive performance. Hopefully we can get that, the boys are dialled in, and get a positive result.”

Scotland go into the game on the back of beating Group A favourites Spain 2-0 at Hampden in March to make it a perfect start to the campaign, while Norway sit on one point from their two matches.

Asked if his Scotland side now expect to win these types of games, Clarke said: “I think we should come with confidence. Obviously we had a good March and we have had a good run of wins in competitive fixtures.

“But we know we are coming to a difficult place. We always respect our opponents, we try and play as well as we can, and hopefully we can add to the points tally.

“It’s a different challenge, it’s an away game. Norway are a different team from Spain, they play a different way.

“They put you under a little bit more pressure maybe. Spain will pass the ball and pass the ball and try to win the game with possession. Norway can play with the ball because they have good ball players, but they can also be quite direct as well.”

Clarke reported a healthy squad following a Spanish training camp and this week’s work at Lesser Hampden.

“Full squad’s here, 25 players have travelled,” he said. “I have got a big decision, I have got to leave two out of the 23, so that’s my next job.”

Scott McTominay predicted Scotland's fans will talk about Tuesday's win over Spain in 30 years' time after his brace helped the Tartan Army maintain their perfect start to Euro 2024 qualifying. 

Having also scored twice in Saturday's 3-0 win over Cyprus, McTominay netted in both halves as Scotland handed Luis de la Fuente his first defeat as Spain boss, triumphing 2-0 at a buoyant Hampden Park.

Scotland have now won their first two games of a World Cup/Euros qualification campaign for the first time since September 2006, putting them three points clear of Spain at the Group A summit.

Manchester United midfielder McTominay, meanwhile, has four goals in his last two international appearances after netting just once in his first 37.

Speaking after the full-time whistle, McTominay was aware of the significance of his second brace in three days, telling ViaPlay: "Look at this place. I've never seen anything like it, it's incredible!

"The manager said in his talk before we went out, 'This is your chance to make your own legacies as Scotland players'.

"These are the nights that in 20 or 30 years, people will remember, and they'll watch the game back and say, 'I was there'.

"That's what the game is about. These fans are amazing every time we come to Hampden and we can't thank them enough."

While the result provided a huge boost to Steve Clarke's hopes of leading Scotland to successive European Championships, the head coach is keen to ensure his players do not get carried away.  

Asked if Tuesday's victory was the best of his managerial career, Clarke said: "I've not had time to think about it or digest it yet, I'm just trying to get my voice back, to be honest!

"If you can produce a big result against one of the top teams in Europe, then people speak about it in years to come.

"The players were absolutely outstanding from the first minute to the last minute. It's a big night, it feels like a big step forward in what we're trying to do as a nation.

"But it's only six points, you don't qualify with six points. One bad game can always set you back, so we'll stay focused and keep our feet on the ground."

Scott McTominay scored twice to fire Scotland to a memorable 2-0 victory over Spain at a jubilant Hampden Park, maintaining the hosts' perfect start to Euro 2024 qualifying.

The Manchester United midfielder – who also grabbed a brace in Saturday's 3-0 win over Cyprus – got Scotland off to a flying start as his early strike deflected in off visiting defender Inigo Martinez.

While Spain enjoyed plenty of possession, Luis de la Fuente's visitors were unable to respond after McTominay doubled Scotland's lead, lashing home following excellent work from Kieran Tierney.

The result moves Scotland three points clear of Spain at the top of Group A, while De la Fuente has plenty of work to do following his first defeat since replacing Luis Enrique after the World Cup. 

Scotland sent the home crowd into raptures seven minutes in as Andy Robertson capitalised on Pedro Porro's slip to find McTominay, who saw his left-footed effort deflect past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The hosts almost scored a second as Ryan Christie prodded wide from the edge of the area, though they soon had the woodwork to thank as Joselu's header rattled the crossbar at the other end.

Rodri nodded narrowly over as Spain dominated possession, but Lyndon Dykes missed a great chance to double Scotland's lead when he chipped over on the stroke of half-time. 

The hosts did not need long to score a second after the interval, however, McTominay firing into the bottom-left corner after David Garcia failed to cut out Tierney's left-wing cross 51 minutes in.

Substitute Iago Aspas lifted over from Nico Williams' driven cross as the agitated visitors threw men forwards, with Scotland holding firm to record a statement result in the battle to reach next year's tournament in Germany.

What does it mean? Scotland stay perfect as Spanish run ends

Although Scotland missed out on last year's World Cup, they approached this qualification cycle in good spirits after winning promotion to the top tier of the Nations League last year.

Clarke – who penned a new contract last week – will now be supremely confident of leading Scotland to successive European Championships, with the Tartan Army winning their first two games of a World Cup/Euros qualifying campaign for the first time since September 2006.

Spain, meanwhile, have a fight on their hands after suffering their first European Championship qualifying defeat since October 2014 (v Slovakia). 

Great Scott doubles up

McTominay's international career had not exactly been defined by his goalscoring feats – until the last three days. 

Having scored just once in his first 37 caps, McTominay has hit the net four times in his last two international games, while he is the first Scotland player to net a brace against Spain since Mo Johnston did so in a World Cup qualifier in 1984.

Home comforts key for Scotland

Excluding play-offs, Scotland are now unbeaten in eight qualification matches, though it is at Hampden Park where Clarke's men have recorded their standout results.

Scotland have won six successive home qualifiers, going unbeaten through nine such games on their own turf (W8 D1).

What's next?

Scotland visit Norway in their next Euro 2024 qualifier on June 17. Spain, meanwhile, are in Nations League action in the next international break, facing Italy in the semi-finals on June 15.  

Steve Clarke has signed a new deal to remain Scotland head coach until 2026.

Clarke, who was appointed in 2019, will stay in charge of the national team until after the next World Cup in Canada, Mexico and United States.

The 59-year-old's new deal was announced ahead of Scotland's Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, which they start with a double-header against Cyprus and Spain at Hampden Park.

Clarke masterminded Scotland's promotion to UEFA Nations League Group A last year and is determined to guide them to a major tournament.

He said: "I am proud that my coaching team and I will continue to lead the team through the next two qualifying campaigns, as well as Nations League Group A, but being able to do so is a testament to the squad of players who have been central to our improvement.

"The immediate focus is ensuring a positive start to our Euros campaign against Cyprus, who were the opposition for my first match in charge in 2019.

"When we named our squad for the double-header, I spoke with my coaches about how the quality and depth of the squad has evolved in those four years. We now have an experienced core who have been constants throughout, but we have also added quality and competition in every area of the team.

"We also played that game in front of around 30,000 fans and will walk out on Saturday, and Tuesday against Spain, to a full house at Hampden Park.

"It's imperative that we keep the fans and the nations engaged and entertained and that is something we are all committed to achieving through winning games and qualifying for more major tournaments, starting with Germany next year."

Steve Clarke believes there is more to come from his Scotland team after they earned promotion to the top tier of the Nations League via a 0-0 draw with Ukraine, leapfrogging rivals England following their relegation.

Scotland approached Tuesday's match – played in Krakow, Poland – needing just a point to top Group B1 following home wins over Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland last week.

Although they managed just one shot on target against Oleksandr Petrakov's team, Scotland produced a fine rearguard action to cling on for the result they craved – also earning a spot in pot two for October's Euro 2024 qualification draw.

Topping the table means Clarke's men are already assured of a play-off place for the next European Championship.

And with England picking up just three points from six games to finish bottom of Group A3, Scotland will begin the next Nations League campaign looking down on their old foes.

But Clarke was focused on his own side's continued development after the match, looking forward to more against Europe's elite.

"It is a big night," Clarke said. "We wanted to win the section. We wanted to show people what happened in the summer [when Scotland lost a World Cup play-off to Ukraine] wasn't us.

"We wanted to be better this week. We pressed the big button to reset and go again, and we came up with three fantastic performances, all different but all vital. 

"I sat down with my whole staff and said we had to set a different environment and be more demanding of the players, and we have to push that agenda.

"Then I sat with the players and went through what we thought we did well in the summer and what we didn't do so well.

"We gave them a lot of information to change the system and play a slightly different way. They took it on board, and we have had a really good week. 

"Now we are in pot two and in the A league – but we don't want to stop. We want to try and get better and better."

With Clarke's contract as Scotland head coach set to expire following Euro 2024, he joked that competing with Europe's finest in League A would not be his problem.

"That'll be the next head coach," he added. "My contract is up before then!"

Scotland boss Steve Clarke is "desperate" to reach the Qatar 2022 World Cup as his side prepare for an emotionally charged encounter with Ukraine.

The two sides meet in a UEFA qualifying semi-final playoff at Hampden Park this week, with the winner set to face Wales for a spot at the end-of-year tournament.

The match will mark Ukraine's first competitive fixture since the nation was invaded by Russia in February, with neutrals likely to be cheering Oleksandr Petrakov's visitors on in Glasgow.

Speaking ahead of the clash, Clarke says the emotional tenor of the game will be led by their opponents, but insists his side will only be focused on their own on-field goals.

"We always said we would be guided by the Ukrainians as to how they felt," he stated.

"They made a decision to get their football players out of the country and into a training camp to prepare for the game because they want to play, they want to try and give their nation a boost by qualifying for Qatar.

"The game goes ahead but still with the horrific outside influence, for us we focus on the game on football.

"Nothing but good thoughts and good wishes for them, except during the game.

"They want to go to Qatar to represent their country but I'm desperate to go to Qatar with Scotland.

"My staff are desperate to go and most importantly our players are desperate to take their country to a World Cup final so that's what we focus on."

Steve Clarke spoke of his pride after Scotland's first major tournament appearance in 23 years ended in a 3-1 defeat to Croatia.

But the 57-year-old also shared his belief that the disparity in tournament experience between the two sides was a decisive factor in the Scots exiting Euro 2020 at the group stage.

Having picked up just a point from their opening two games, both Scotland and Croatia needed a win at Hampden Park to secure a place in the round of 16.

And it was the visitors who got it, with Nikola Vlasic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic goals rendering a Callum McGregor equaliser - the first Scottish European Championship goal since Ally McCoist against Switzerland on June 18, 1996 - irrelevant.

Reflecting on the defeat, Clarke told ITV: "I'm proud of the players, the fact they managed to get here for the first time in 23 years, that was a big thing for the country, a big thing for this group of players. 

"I think you saw tonight a team that's tournament-hardened, Croatia, against a team at their first tournament in a long time. 

"We had a little spell just before half-time when we got the goal and looked exciting but Croatia are a top team and they showed that tonight."

Clarke declared a 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic in the first group game to be a decisive result in an all-too-brief Scotland campaign.

But he has backed his young squad to learn important lessons from their first major international tournament.

He added: "I think we'll go away and learn from it for sure. Obviously starting on the back foot with losing the first game is something you'd need to address in the next one because that set us up for a difficult one. 

"We left everything on the pitch at Wembley against England on Friday and couldn't quite get it tonight. 

"I think through all the three games they've acquitted themselves well, they've tried their best, showed some good qualities. Obviously, as a coach I don't like to concede so many goals, it's something we have to work on a little bit, but we can improve. 

"We've got young players in the squad, it's a relatively young group of players, and we want to improve together and hopefully we can do that."

Captain Andy Robertson echoed his manager's sentiments and urged his team-mates to turn this into a glorious era for Scotland by ensuring they also qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

He said: "We're a squad that still has a lot of potential, still relatively new to this and not a lot of caps between us and it's important we build on this. 

"It's important we don't take this as the high for this squad because we're a good team on our day and now we need to focus on September. 

"I know it's a long way away, we need to go away on holiday and finally rest, but come September we need to try and qualify for another tournament because it can't go another 23 years. 

"We want to be a team that qualifies for many tournaments and it become the norm that Scotland qualify. 

"That's in our own hands, but we'll think about that another day."

As for the Croatia skipper, Modric, he preferred to revel in his nation sealing safe passage to the knockout stages in second place behind England rather than the wonderful curler he netted to set up the win.

The Real Madrid midfielder is now his country's oldest and youngest ever scorer at a European Championship, having done so at both 35 years and 286 days and 22 years 73 days old.

He told "This goal means a lot to me but our play means more, from the beginning until the end. I am happy that my goal helped, but it's most important that the team won.

"We are happy because we played a big match and qualified for the next round.

"We were not happy with performances in the first two matches and we knew we could be better. When we play like this, we are dangerous to everyone."

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