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Clarke: It’s up to Scotland players to make the nation smile

The Scotland boss leads his players into the Euro 2020 play-off without some major players.

Clarke: It’s up to Scotland players to make the nation smile SNS Group

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has said that it’s up to his team to lift the nation’s spirits when they face Israel in the Euro 2020 play-off on Thursday.

Clarke was speaking at the same time as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was outlining new restrictions to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

And the Scotland boss was counting the cost to his own squad after it emerged that midfielder Stuart Armstrong had tested positive for the virus, and that teammates Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie would have to self-isolate after close contact, ruling them out of three international games.

Scott McKenna, Oliver Burke and Liam Palmer have all withdrawn from the squad with injuries but Clarke remained undaunted as he aims to take the national team into a play-off final against Norway or Serbia, and beyond that to a first major finals since 1998.

He said: “We have lost six players from the squad.

“It is up to us to make the nation smile tomorrow night. We know we have the nation behind us.”

Clarke will now have to rethink his plans for the semi-final at Hampden, as well as the Nations League matches against Slovakia and Czech Republic.

“I have some decisions to make in terms of team selection, which really is my main focus now,” he said. “What’s happened has happened.

“Hopefully everyone involved comes through with no issues and health is more important than any game of football.

“But as the national team manager I need to make sure we get a team on the pitch in the right frame of mind and ready to go so we can get a positive result.”

Scotland captain Andy Robertson said: “We can’t control what has happened, nobody can.

“We can’t get the three players back unfortunately. That is the cards we have been dealt and we can’t change that. We all need to pull together now. It’s up to us to focus on football now.

“The manager called up everyone up because they are good enough for Scotland. We know what is at stake. There is an incentive there tomorrow night. Whatever team the manager puts out will all be motivated.

“We need to prepare as well as we can. We need to get everything spot on.

“We’ve had a few meetings, a couple of training sessions on Sunday.

“We know what the manager expects from us, it us up to us, whoever gets picked to go and show that on the pitch.

“Fingers crossed we can do that, I believe we can. I have confidence we can, regardless of losing quality players.”