DEJECTED Steve Clarke acknowledged Scotland aren’t even good enough to be termed second-rate.

The international manager, after watching his team dismantled 4-0 by Belgium at Hampden last night, admitted third was the best he could hope for in the Euro 2020 qualifying group.

Clarke, who got the job following the sacking of Alex McLeish, admitted automatic qualification for next summer’s finals is now beyond his side with the target a third place finish and the opportunity to make progress via the play-offs next March.

With the nation, after three consecutive defeats and the loss of nine goals, sitting in fifth place in their section, the team boss dismissed any talk of how it was still mathematically possible to overhaul Russia in second place.

Clarke, speaking to STV, said: “The group’s over in terms of qualification.

“It doesn’t look good where we are in the table now. There are 12 points up for grabs and we have to make sure we finish third in the group, in terms of rankings and seedings.

“And if we finish third it will mean we have performed well, which should give us confidence going into the play-off games in March.”

Clarke accepted the better team had won, but was unhappy with the nature of the goals conceded.

He added: “We shot ourselves in the foot in the first-half from our set-play, 10 seconds later we are 1-0 down after nine minutes.

“It was a decent nine minutes, we started on the front foot again and pressed well, but then we have been heavily punished from two corner-kicks.

“We spoke before the game, when you play against a team of Belgium’s quality, who are capable of scoring from open play, it’s almost imperative that you don’t concede from set-pieces and from three set-pieces we find ourselves 3-0 down, having played some good football in the first-half.

“Even at 1-0 we didn’t buckle, we stayed strong, tried to press and move the ball, but it’s very difficult to try and sell positives when you have lost 4-0 at home.”

Scotland blew nine points in their last three games by losing 3-0 in Brussels to Roberto Martinez’s top-ranked side in June and then crashing 2-1 to Russia at Hampden on Friday evening.

They followed that up with the four-goal hiding in Glasgow last night and it’s back to the drawing board for the manager.

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About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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