Steve Clarke hailed the character of his Scotland players after they beat Serbia on penalties to reach Euro 2020.
The national team were 1-0 up with just a minute to go when Serbia equalised to take the game to extra time and set the Scotland players back on their heels.
Clarke’s side bounced back to see out extra time and then win a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out, with David Marshall saving from Aleksandar Mitrovic after every other player had found the net.
The win ended a 22-year wait for the men’s team to qualify for a major finals and Clarke said it was thoroughly deserved.
“I thought we played very well,” he said. “A good away performance.
“For the majority of the 90 minutes I thought we were the better team. We created the better chances but we couldn’t get the second goal that would have made it a little more comfortable.
“We conceded a late equaliser but the strength of the players’ character showed to dig in.
“The character of the players in the penalty shootout was there for everyone to see. You could see the determination of the players to make the country happy.”
Clarke was delighted that hard work in analysing the opponent and formulating a way to win had paid off.
“We made a conscious decision when we approached the September internationals to change the system of the team to go with three central defenders, to work on the midfield to play a certain way,” he said.
“We watched the Serbian team perform very, very well to beat Norway away, it was a big win for Serbia. We knew their strengths, we tried to nullify their strengths and I think, by and large, we managed to do that.”
Though players and staff were celebrating a historic victory, the manager was already looking ahead to the forthcoming games against Slovakia and Israel and aims to keep Scotland’s winning streak going.
“We still have two games to go in the Nations League so at some stage I’m going to have to calm the players down a wee bit,” he said. “We’re going to have to take a deep breath.
“We still have the opportunity to win the section that we’re in. We need three more points, so hopefully in the next two games we can continue on that path, continue working hard, and win the group as well. That would be a fantastic week for Scottish football and for this group of players.”