‘It doesn’t look very good’: Steve Clarke admits Scotland’s hopes of automatic qualification are ‘over’ after being thrashed by Belgium
- Monday’s loss was the national team’s heaviest ever home qualifying defeat
- Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld all scored for visitors
- Kevin De Bruyne consigned Steve Clarke’s sorry Scots to a third straight defeat
Steve Clarke admits Scotland’s hopes of automatic qualifcation for the Euro 2020 finals are ‘over’ after a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Belgium.
The national team’s heaviest ever home qualifying defeat saw Clarke’s side torn to shreds by the world’s top ranked team.
Goals from Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld and the peerless Kevin De Bruyne consigned Clarke’s sorry Scots to a third straight qualifying defeat.
Steve Clarke admits Scotland’s hopes of automatic qualifcation for Euro 2020 are ‘over
Nine points behind off second place with four games to play a point for Russia in Moscow next month will render the task of qualification mathematically impossible.
The Scots slipped to fifth in Group I thanks to a Cyprus win over San Marino.
Targetting a third place finish in preparation for the safety net of Nations League play-offs next year, Clarke admitted: ‘The group is over in terms of qualification. What we have to do now, and we spoke about it after the game, is target third position.
‘It doesn’t look very good where we are in the table just now. There are 12 points up for grabs between now and the end of this qualifying campaign and we need to make sure we finish third in the group.
‘It’s good for us in terms of ranking and seedings and also if you finish third in the group it’ll mean that we have performed well and won a few games and picked up points, which should give us confidence going into the play-off games in March.’
After next month’s daunting trip to Russia comes a home game against San Marino at Hampden.
With apathy growing around the national team the immediate task is to restore some belief and confidence before the play-offs.
‘I have to build anyway,’ added Clarke. ‘I’m four games into my tenure. I don’t like losing games, I don’t like losing games heavily, so we have to try and address that in the four games coming up.
Kevin De Bruyne celebrates during Belgium’s victory over Scotland at Hampden Park
‘It’s not always about building. I’m not going to experiment in the next four games. I don’t have to experiment, I have to work with the players at my disposal and I have to make us better and certainly more resilient defensively.
‘First of all you have to address the result – 4-0 is not a good scoreline.
‘From three set plays, we found ourselves 3-0 down at half-time having played some good football in the first half.
‘Even at 1-0, we didn’t buckle. We stayed strong in the game, we tried to continue the press and move the ball.
‘But it’s very difficult to try and sell positives when you lose 4-0 at home.’ ‘Now we have to make sure that we improve defensively because conceding one against Cyprus, three in Belgium, two at home to Russia, another four tonight, we have to tighten up defensively.
‘We have to continue to work on the path that takes us toe qualification for Euro 2020. Now that’s going to be the play-off route and we have to embrace that.’
Insisting Scotland are heading in the right direction despite another crushing defeat Belgium boss Roberto Martinez appealed for Clarke to be given time and patience.
‘International football is about having a long-term plan and this group of players have got the talent and desire to play for Scotland. Steve Clarke is working miracles with a group of players that he’s only seeing three or four days.
‘It is very clear to see there are positive signs. Six players are now starting games in the Premier League, three in the top six. It is very difficult to get players in top-six teams. This is a long-term plan for Scottish football if everyone is patient.’