Steve Clarke exuding confidence as Scotland head for World Cup playoffs

Manager undaunted by the prospect of the likes of Italy and Portugal in the draw after fine win over Denmark

Confidence arrives in many forms. Steve Clarke, never one for wild proclamations, did not break stride when it was pointed out Italy and Portugal will join his Scottish team in the draw for March's World Cup playoffs.

"Scotland are there too," said Clarke. "And anybody who watched our game against Denmark will be thinking: 'That'll be a tough game.' We will see what this draw brings and deal with it in March.

“I keep saying it, we are decent. We wanted to finish the campaign on a high and I think you saw the way we approached the game was very positive.”

That the Danes, who had won nine qualifiers out of nine before visiting Glasgow, were defeated by Scotland was one thing. The cohesion and technical strength of the Scottish performance turned heads. They were comfortable 2-0 winners.

Late June, when Scotland were bundled out of Euro 2020 having claimed only a single point in the group phase, felt like a lifetime ago as Hampden Park partied.

“We have come a long way in a short space of time and it’s great so let’s just enjoy it,” Clarke added.

Good campaign

“It has been a good campaign. It was nice to take part in our first tournament. I don’t know if anyone remembers but I did say at the time I felt we would come out of that tournament as a better team and better squad. I think we have proved that.

“I think we have improved as a team for the fact that we have been together. We got criticised for the tournament but we learned at the tournament and that was important.”

Clarke reserved special praise for John Souttar, who headed in Scotland's first goal against Denmark. The Hearts centre-back has battled back from three serious Achilles injuries, including two in three years, to return to international football. Numerous Championship clubs in England have designs on the 25-year-old, who is out of contract in Edinburgh next summer.

“John Souttar was the story of the night,” said Clarke. “I’m so happy for him. I gave him a big hug when he came off and I could have cried.”

Clarke said he has not considered whether it is worthwhile asking for domestic fixture leeway from authorities before the play-offs. The manager does not expect to see his squad collectively again for four months.

– Guardian

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