World Cup play-off semi-final

Scotland face Ukraine on wave of emotion

Steve Clarke
Play-off: Steve Clarke (pic: SNS Group)

Steve Clarke unveiled his Scotland squad for next week’s World Cup play-off semi-final against war-torn Ukraine, downplaying any suggestion that the visitors will be unprepared.

Ukraine, who will be playing in their first competitive match since the Russian invasion in February, allowed the home-based players to train in Slovenia.

Manchester City full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, West Ham United midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko and Benfica striker Roman Yaremchuk will unite with the rest of the squad for the delayed tie at Hampden on 1 June.

Clarke is aware that many neutrals will be willing Ukraine to win but says the Scots have to set aside emotion and get on with the job of qualifying for Qatar.

“It’s not going to affect the game, how they play or how we play,” he said. “Everyone across Europe has shown a lot of solidarity with Ukraine. We know the situation is horrendous. But it’s a game of football. They want to win and we want to win.”

Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney was a notable omission from Clarke’s squad. The full-back missed out as he continues his recovery from knee surgery but there were welcome returns for John Souttar, Liam Cooper and Nathan Patterson in an extended 28-man pool, which also included Celtic’s Anthony Ralston.

Ryan Jack, who made his Scotland return in March after a period out, is included again among an array of midfield options. In the goalkeeping department, 37-year-old David Marshall joins Craig Gordon, Zander Clark and Liam Kelly in the squad on the day he signed a two-year deal with Hibs.

The victors head to Cardiff to face Wales on 5 June for a place in the finals at the end of the year.

Following their play-off exertions, the attention will then turn to the start of the UEFA Nations League campaign – with a home match against Armenia followed by away matches against Republic of Ireland and Armenia.

The sequence of fixtures could see Scotland play five matches in a two-week period, prompting Clarke to name a larger squad.

Scotland squad:

Goalkeepers: Zander Clark (St Johnstone), Craig Gordon (Hearts), Liam Kelly (Motherwell), David Marshall (Hibs)

Defenders: Liam Cooper (Leeds United), Grant Hanley (Norwich City), Jack Hendry (Brugge), Aaron Hickey (Bologna), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Stephen O’Donnell (Motherwell), Nathan Patterson (Everton), Anthony Ralston (Celtic), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), John Souttar (Rangers), Greg Taylor (Celtic)

Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen), Billy Gilmour (Chelsea), Ryan Jack (Rangers), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), David Turnbull (Celtic)

Forwards: Che Adams (Southampton), Jacob Brown (Stoke City), Ryan Christie (Bournemouth), Lyndon Dykes (QPR), Ross Stewart (Sunderland)

Scotland fixtures:

FIFA World Cup play-off semi-final
Scotland v Ukraine
Hampden Park
Wednesday, 1 June (7.45pm)

FIFA World Cup Play-off Final (TBC)
Wales v Scotland or Ukraine
Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
Sunday, 5 June (5pm)

UEFA Nations League
Scotland v Armenia
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Wednesday, 8 June (7:45pm)

UEFA Nations League
Republic of Ireland v Scotland
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Saturday, 11 June (5pm)

UEFA Nations League
Armenia v Scotland
Republican Stadium , Yerevan
Tuesday, 14 June (5pm).

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