Naismith: Scotland have shaken off World Cup pain before Nations League

The Scotland coach says players can bounce back from defeat to Ukraine.

Steven Naismith: Scotland have shaken off World Cup pain before Nations League SNS Group

Steven Naismith is confident Scotland will have banished their World Cup heartache in time for the beginning of their Nations League campaign this week.

Steve Clarke and his players were left dejected last Wednesday as their play-off defeat at home to Ukraine cost them the chance of going to Qatar later this year.

After spending recent days licking their wounds, coach Naismith believes the Scots will be ready to get back into action when they host Armenia on Wednesday before travelling to Dublin to face Ireland on Saturday.

“It was difficult to lift the mood, more so in the days straight after the game,” said Naismith. “It was a big disappointment for fans, staff, players, everybody but nobody will have been hurting more than the players.

“The expectation they put on themselves is big and then to not hit the heights of what they can do is the biggest thing they’ve been feeling.

“With having the time between the games, there was a bit of down time to let the boys go and shake that off by doing whatever they like doing and then get back focused for what is a new campaign.

“We’ve probably seen the results of that in the last couple of training sessions. It’s been much better than where it was after the Ukraine game.”

Naismith admits the blow of not making the World Cup has been particularly keenly felt because expectations have soared in the Scotland camp since they qualified for Euro 2020 and then embarked on a stirring six-game winning streak at the end of 2021.

“You didn’t need to walk in the changing room and say anything (after the Ukraine game),” said Naismith. “Every one of them understood they’d let a very good opportunity go.

“We didn’t get outplayed, it wasn’t unbelievable stuff that Ukraine did that cost us so that’s where the boys look at themselves. It’s a setback and there’s frustration but for this group it’s been real positives for a long time, which is where the root of the disappointment comes from.

“With the progression of the squad, how well we’ve done, getting to the Euros, the expectation goes up and everybody has a real belief we can get to tournaments. That’s where we want to be.

“When the draw originally was made, we were all sitting going ‘decent enough draw’, ‘we can get through these games’. Going into the Ukraine game, the fans, the players and the staff all felt that way. Everybody feels this confidence that comes from three years of good work. That’s where the disappointment comes from.”

Scotland qualified for last year’s Euros through a play-off on the back of winning their Nations League group and Naismith stressed the importance of the upcoming Nations League fixtures as they bid to boost their chances of making it to Euro 2024 in Germany.

“We’ve got to use that disappointment now,” he said. “We’ve done well through a Nations League and got to a tournament, we’ve had a setback now.

“There’s not been that many setbacks since the manager’s come in. Now we’ve got to push on again if we want to be that team that’s consistently chapping on the door of major tournaments and giving ourselves a chance.

“We’ve had a setback but the good thing now is we’ve got three games in quick succession where we can still leave this camp on a positive knowing what a good Nations League campaign can bring at the end of it.” 

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