Andy Robertson believes Scotland must strive for ‘perfection’ as they bid to progress automatically from what he feels is the strongest Euro 2024 qualifying group.
The Scots begin their campaign at home to Cyprus on Saturday knowing they are already assured of a play-off for next year’s finals in Germany by virtue of their Nations League performance last year.
However, after suffering World Cup play-off heartache against Ukraine last summer, captain Robertson is determined to ensure Scotland seal a top-two finish from a group that also includes past winners Spain, Erling Haaland’s Norway and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s Georgia.
“This is the toughest group in the whole Euro qualifiers I think but we’re looking forward to the challenge,” said the Liverpool left-back.
“As second seeds, I’m not sure we’ve got the benefit from it. We’ve certainly got the toughest pot 3 and pot 4 teams and even pot 5 getting Cyprus.
“We had the feeling of qualifying for the last Euros and we want that feeling again. This squad are hungry to represent the country at more tournaments and we believe we’ve got a chance.
“We’ve got a guaranteed play-off through our really good Nations League and we have to use that to our advantage by going into this campaign with no fear.
“We’ve got that to fall back on but not to rely on. We have to go into this group and try and attack it and qualify automatically because we know play-offs can go either way.
“The last (World Cup) campaign was extremely positive. The play-offs didn’t go our way but the 10 games within the campaign were very good and if we replicate that this time and finish second we’ll automatically qualify for the Euros.
“When I look back on previous campaigns I’ve been involved in there’s always one game that annoys me in each campaign, and they always seem to cost you, so we know how perfect we have to be to qualify, and that’s what we’re striving towards.”
Scotland had two narrow 2-1 victories over Cyprus in their last Euro qualifying campaign, and Robertson insists they will not be treating their visitors lightly.
“It shows how tough this group is that Cyprus are the bottom seeds,” he said. “The two games we played against them in the last campaign were extremely tough.
“Oli Burke scored a last-minute winner against them at Hampden and in Cyprus we had to come from behind. Technically they’re bottom seeds but we’re not taking it as that.”
The Scots go into their opening qualifier boosted by the news that manager Steve Clarke has extended his contract to the end of the 2026 World Cup campaign.
“We’re all delighted, it’s good news for the whole country,” said Robertson. “I think since the manager’s come in, there’s been a lot more positive feeling around the national team. The changing room was extremely happy when he told us.”
Scotland have moved their training base from Oriam in Edinburgh to Queen’s Park’s newly-refurbished Lesser Hampden headquarters, meaning Robertson has spent the past week back at the home of the club at which he began his professional career.
“It’s brought back a lot of memories of good times,” said the 29-year-old. “To say it’s changed a lot is an understatement. There’s been huge improvements.
“The pitch is exceptional, the changing rooms are top class. You can tell Queen’s Park are a club moving in the right direction. They’ll be in the Premiership soon enough.
“Some of the staff are still there from my time so it feels like I’ve been back home. It’s certainly been enjoyable for me this week.”