Where do Scotland go from here after missing out on Qatar?
It felt as if it just wasn’t going to be Scotland’s night. Ahead of their World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine, Hampden Park was rocking, but there was a sense that this was not Scotland’s match to win. Their opponents, through all the hardship they have endured as a nation over the past few months, seemed destined to produce a memorable performance, and they duly delivered.
Scotland just didn’t get going quickly enough. By the time they found their feet in the second half, Ukraine were 2-0 up and looking good value for the win. Callum McGregor’s goal gave them hope, but it wasn’t to be for Steve Clarke’s side, with Ukraine adding a third goal late in the game.
With that, Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1998 were dashed. The fact that the game had to be postponed due to the conflict in Ukraine probably didn’t help Scotland’s chances on any online betting site, but that can’t be used as an excuse. In the end, Ukraine simply performed better on the night.
Clarke has been philosophical in the aftermath of the match. Indeed, he cited his father’s illness in hospital as a cause for perspective when it comes to the disappointments suffered by football fans, promising that Scotland will move on quickly and focus on the next challenge, which is the start of their Nations League campaign.
“I think sometimes maybe you guys don’t realise how quickly you have to move on in professional sport,” Clarke said. “You just have to move on. That one’s gone, there’s no point looking back and thinking ‘what if?’. OK, it was a big game and we’re all suffering. We’re all hurt. But we have to move on. There is no point in going back and going back and going back.”
Indeed, it may be a blessing for Scotland that they can immediately get back on the pitch for their Nations League fixtures against Armenia and the Republic of Ireland. As painful as the defeat to Ukraine, it can be quickly put to the back of their mind as they focus on giving a good account of themselves in this new campaign.
The next target is Euro 2024, and Scotland will be giving everything to ensure that they are in the best possible shape by the time the qualifiers get underway next year. While the disappointment of their World Cup failure will linger for a while, it’s important that Scotland use this time to further develop as a team in advance of the Euros.
Last summer, the current team earned their first taste of a major international tournament, and whilst they couldn’t progress beyond the group stage, it was a good chance for the players to gain vital experience and get a flavour of what it’s like to represent their team on the biggest stage. This is still a young team, and they will be fancied in the sports betting tips to qualify for tournaments in the future.
Indeed, the sense that this was a missed opportunity proves just how far Scotland have come in the last few years. After a spell in the doldrums, Scotland are back competing, and while they may have missed out this time, it will only fire them up all the more for Euro 2024.