Nations League

Clarke admits to ‘opportunity missed’

Steve Clarke has named five uncapped players in his first Scotland squad

Optimism: Steve Clarke (pic: SNS Group)

Israel 1 Scotland 0
Netanya Stadium, League B Group 2

Scotland manager Steve Clarke admitted it was “an opportunity missed” after failing to win promotion to Nations League Group A – and a potential World Cup play-off spot.

The narrow defeat in Netanya put paid to any hope the Euro 2020-bound Scots might have had of rounding off a memorable week in style.

The Czech Republic’s victory over Slovakia saw them top the group and left Clarke wondering what might have been, with a play-off berth for a place at Qatar 2022 a potential reward for group winners. 

“I think it’s an opportunity missed,” he said.

“If we want to keep improving and getting better and taking the national team forward we have to be more clinical and make better choices in the final third of the pitch.

“But let’s not go back to our negative ways around the international team. We have a lot to look forward to. We shouldn’t forget how far we’ve come.

“But we also know how far we’ve got to go if we want to be regularly successful and regularly qualifying for tournaments.

“We have to go away from home and get good results.”

Clarke had hoped to launch another unbeaten run in Israel after the nine-game sequence came to an end in Slovakia on Sunday but it wasn’t to be.

Back-to-back losses may have taken the edge off the glorious achievement in Belgrade but Clarke and his men can return home with heads held high after ending a 23-year wait for a major finals.

They now have a four-month break before the qualification process for the World Cup begins, which will allow plenty of time for the Nations League disappointment to wash through the system.

Clarke will no doubt spend a lot of that time trying to come up with a solution to his side’s chronic lack of goals. Five goals in six games in the group tells its own story but he’ll relish the challenge of coming up with more correct answers as the road to Qatar beckons.

Scotland will learn their qualifying opponents on 7 December, with the first series of matches taking place in March. 

Scotland: Marshall, O’Donnell (Burke, 73), Robertson, McTominay, Gallagher (McKenna, 73), Tierney, McGinn (Griffiths, 61) Jack, Dykes (McBurnie, 61), McGregor (McLean, 82), Christie

Unused subs: McLaughlin, Gordon, Taylor, Cooper, Shankland, Palmer, Considine.

Goals: Israel – Solomon (44).

Other result: Czech Republic 2 Slovakia 0

Mackay quits as performance director

Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay has left the role after four years in charge of the elite development strategy.

With Scotland having ended a 23-year wait to make a major finals tournament with the penalty shoot-out win in Serbia, the former Cardiff City boss insisted it was the “right time to step down”.

Mackay replaced Brian McClair in the key post and he said: “I am proud to have served Scottish football. I care deeply about the Scottish game and about the role the Scottish FA plays in leading and nurturing it.

“We have some of the most passionate, knowledgeable and committed coaches around and it’s no real surprise to me that a new generation of confident, brave and technical players are now emerging.

“I believe significant progress has been made during my tenure.”

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