Clarke targets automatic Euro 2024 qualification as next step for Scotland

  • Scotland will be in pot two for Euro 2024 qualifying draw
  • Clarke’s side will step up to A section in next Nations League

It is an indicator of the confidence flowing through the Scotland scene that Steve Clarke believes the Euro 2024 playoff secured alongside promotion from Group B of the Nations League will not be required.

The taking of seven points from a possible nine inside a week saw Scotland hold off Ukraine to claim a berth in section A. The spin-offs are potentially more significant: Scotland will be in pot two for the Euro 2024 qualifying draw on 9 October and have that playoff spot as a fallback option if they fail to qualify, which was how they reached Euro 2020.

“I don’t think, with this group of players, that we will need it,” Clarke said. “That’s my honest opinion. It’s nice to have the safety net of the playoffs but I feel we can qualify outright. I would expect this team to qualify directly.

“I haven’t looked at who is there yet or who we can get. I want to enjoy this week. I want the Scottish public to enjoy this week. I want the players to go away feeling absolutely brilliant about themselves. But let’s not just think that’s enough. Let’s push for more. That’s the message I want to get across. Yes, it’s fantastic, but let’s see if we can get even better.”

Twelve years have passed since Scotland were last a pot two team. Although the squad under Clarke have generally delivered success, there have been times of trouble. Summer defeats by Ukraine in a World Cup playoff and the Republic of Ireland in the Nations League led to the manager’s detractors flying out of the woodwork. Clarke has not forgotten.

“If you go back to June, some people wanted me out the door,” Clarke said. “Things can change quickly in football. This has been a good week. It’s about trying to make ourselves better to move things forward again. Instead of taking a step forward this week, we’ve taken a giant leap. We have found another way to play, we’ve found
other players in the squad who can do very, very well for us. The squad is stronger.

“It means if we are going to places like the other night, when you are looking to get a result that takes us to that next step, then we know we have a team that can do it.”

The frustration for Scotland is that they cannot test themselves against higher Nations League opposition until the competition resumes in 2024. The Netherlands, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium or Portugal could lie in wait. “It’s tough; it’s certainly not going to be easy,” Clarke said. “You see Wales – they went up and they’ve come back again.

“If you want to improve you want to play against the better teams. We’re going to be challenged six times in that tournament, that’s for sure. But these players have come away from this tournament as better players and they will come away from the next one even better again. The young guys will be getting more experience playing against top teams.”

The Scotland support has derived obvious glee from England dropping down to Group B of the Nations League as their team were promoted. It should be noted that Clarke lives and has spent the vast majority of his career in England and he is unwilling to point-score. “I don’t think we’ve got anything over England,” he said. “They weren’t involved in this process. We’ll just enjoy it for ourselves. The games are a way off but my immediate thoughts are to catch up with some sleep. It’s been a tough 10 days.”


Ewan Murray in Krakow

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Clarke facing calls on key Scotland trio for crunch Republic of Ireland clash
Steve Clarke has said he is facing decisions on game time for key Scotland players including Kieran Tierney, Jack Hendry and Stuart Armstrong

Ewan Murray

23, Sep, 2022 @9:30 PM

Article image
Steve Clarke says Scotland focused on Czech trip amid 'cancellation' furore
Scotland’s manager, Steve Clarke, said his side never doubted the game in Czech Republic would go ahead on Monday despite the hosts trying to call it off

Ewan Murray

05, Sep, 2020 @9:30 PM

Article image
Steve Clarke must decide whether Scotland stick or twist against Ireland
Victory over Ukraine has put Scotland in control of their Nations League group but the manager Steve Clarke still has important decisions to make

Ewan Murray

22, Sep, 2022 @2:04 PM

Article image
‘Nobody saw it coming’: Steve Clarke searches for answers to Scotland slump
Steve Clarke found Scotland’s poor performance in Dublin completely unexpected but the manager backed his players to respond in Armenia on Tuesday

Ewan Murray

12, Jun, 2022 @9:30 PM

Article image
Steve Clarke tells Scotland to forget Euro 2024 playoff and take on Spain
The manager said the team can be competitive in their next Euro 2024 qualifier and that Lyndon Dykes will start and Scott McTominay is likely for first XI

Ewan Murray

27, Mar, 2023 @9:30 PM

Article image
Steve Clarke urges Scotland's players to refocus sights on World Cup
Steve Clarke, the Scotland manager, is now focused on Qatar 2022 and is aware of Scottish FA’s precarious financial situation

Ewan Murray

14, Nov, 2020 @10:30 PM

Article image
Scotland 3-0 Ukraine: Nations League – as it happened
Minute-by-minute report: High-energy Scotland scored three and could have had a few more as they moved to the top of Group B1. Scott Murray was watching.

Scott Murray

21, Sep, 2022 @9:13 PM

Article image
Scotland 3-2 Israel: Nations League – as it happened
Minute-by-minute report: A hat-trick from James Forrest earned Scotland promotion from League C on a thrilling night at Hampden Park

Jacob Steinberg

20, Nov, 2018 @10:02 PM

Article image
Depleted Scotland hold out against Ukraine for Nations League promotion
Craig Gordon made important saves and Ryan Porteous had an outstanding debut as Scotland drew 0-0 with Ukraine to reach Nations League A

Ewan Murray at Cracovia Stadium, Krakow

27, Sep, 2022 @8:58 PM

Article image
Scotland spare blushes with scrappy win over makeshift Czech Republic
Ryan Christie’s penalty spared Scottish blushes in an unconvincing 2-1 win over a Czech Republic side put together at 48 hours’ notice

Ewan Murray

07, Sep, 2020 @8:51 PM