Clarke says Scotland will 'focus on football' in play-off with Ukraine

The Scotland boss says his team are aiming to take a step towards the World Cup on Wednesday.

Steve Clarke says Scotland will ‘focus on football’ in play-off meeting with Ukraine SNS Group

Scotland manager Steve Clarke says his team will be focused on beating Ukraine in the World Cup play-off despite the “horrific” circumstances surrounding the game.

Wednesday’s match at Hampden was rescheduled after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the Ukraine-based players had to leave the country to train in Slovenia ahead of a game that would put either side just one match away from the World Cup finals.

Clarke faces the difficult task of leading his team through a difficult fixture and with the backdrop of the war prompting many to question whether Scotland should even be standing in the Ukraine team’s way on Wednesday.

The manager said that all he could do was prepare his side to try and win to further their own dreams of reaching Qatar.

“I think I said a long time ago that I hoped the game would go ahead in June because it would mean the situation has improved,” he said. “It hasn’t, but we’re still here.

“We always said we would be guided by the Ukrainians as to how they felt and whether they felt the game should go ahead or not.

“They made the decision to get their football players out of the country and into a training camp to prepare for the game because they want to play. They want to try and give their nation a boost by qualifying for Qatar.

“So the games goes ahead but still with the horrific outside influence but, for us, we try and focus on the game of football.

“We do what we always do. We try to get on the front foot and we try to be positive in the game. I think the Ukrainian team will be the same. They’ll want to attack and they’re a good team going forward.

“So hopefully it’ll be a good game and hopefully the right result for Scotland.”

Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon shared his manager’s views. He said: “”It doesn’t change anything from our point of view. It is still a football match.

“It is 11 v 11 and no matter what is going on outwith that, it is about us sticking together and putting our game plan in place to make sure we do what we can. If we do that we are confident we have enough ability in the team to win the match, although it is going to be a very difficult one.

“The guys have been training since their leagues have stopped, everything has been geared towards this game and trying to get through it. That’s no different, whatever other outside factors and what people may think.

“We are footballers, trained to play football and that’s what we do.”

Among the voices supporting Ukraine is former Scotland captain Graham Souness, who said he wanted the team to go on and lift the World Cup.

Clarke is of the mind that Souness was entitled to his own view of the matter and said: “I can’t put myself into anyone else’s mind, everyone has their opinion on the situation. Every opinion will be different.

“I focus on myself, I want to go to Qatar with Scotland and the players want to go as well so that is what I will focus on.”

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