Steve Clarke has said that Scotland’s play-off semi-final against Ukraine won’t be an easy task but he’ll have his side well prepared for the World Cup challenge.
Friday’s play-off draw pitted Scotland against Ukraine at the semi-final stage and lined up a potential final against the winner between Wales and Austria in the other Path A match.
Clarke said that he had viewed all of Scotland’s potential semi-final opponents as tricky and he saw Ukraine as no exception. With home advantage and on the back of six consecutive wins, he saw reasons to feel positive but said there was work to be done ahead of the tie.
“It’ll be a tough game,” he said. “I don’t think it mattered who we were going to get in the semi-final, it was always going to be tough.
“We’ll go away and do our homework on Ukraine and try to come up with a winning formula.
“I think at the moment the way the team is playing and the confidence the boys have, we would be happy to play anybody, anywhere.
“But a home game and a full house, we’ve seen the value of that in the last two home games against Israel and Denmark.
“The home crowd will give us an extra boost but it’ll be down to the lads on the pitch as to what actually happens in the game.”
The draw for the finals sets up the possibility of a ‘Battle of Britain’ showdown with Wales but Clarke refused to look too far beyond the first game. With the section containing three teams that got into the knockout stages of Euro 2020, he said all the sides were of a high standard.
“We certainly won’t be distracted [by the prospect of playing Wales],” Clarke insisted. “We almost treat our immediate opponents with the utmost respect.
“That’s what Ukraine will get. We’ll approach the game with humility and we’ll do as well as we can.
“Over the winter months we’ll have to prepare for Wales or Austria but we’ll make sure we’re prepared for that, if we manage to get through the first game.
“They’re all good teams. That’s what I was saying about the draw, there was nothing to get too excited about because it was going to be a tough draw. Ukraine was up there with the toughest and then from that we know Wales have done really well recently, we know the Austrians well because we played them in the group stage.
“It’s something for everyone to focus on and think about over the winter months, and look forward to some good games in March, hopefully.”
Scotland reached the European Championships through a similar play-off, and came through a series of huge games to earn their spot this time around. Clarke acknowledged that the team was used to pressure situations but said that was the nature of the game at the highest level.
He said: “When you look at the qualification process in international football, every game is almost a ‘must-win’, even against the so-called minnows in the group you still have to win.
“We managed to do that well over the qualifying campaign. We’ve shown over the course of the play-offs for Euro 2020 we can handle the high tension of those semi-final and final games and hopefully we can do that again in March.”