Scotland vs Ukraine: Steve Clarke challenges players to impress in Nations League against opponents who ended World Cup dream

Sep 20, 2022

Steve Clarke is expecting improvement from Scotland when they face Ukraine in the Nations League on Wednesday night, three months after the same opponents ended his side's World Cup hopes.

A 3-1 defeat in the play-off semi-final was followed up with a defeat to the Republic of Ireland in the Nations League.

But two comfortable wins over Armenia and results in other games have left Scotland with everything to play for ahead of another hectic programme.

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Scotland manager Steve Clarke expects his side to show what they are capable of when they face Ukraine in the Nations League on Wednesday night.

And Clarke is certain his players will put in a better performance against Ukraine this time around in front of a sell-out crowd at Hampden Park.

"I think the Scottish fans now will know Ukraine are a good team," he said.

"I'm sure they'll play to the same level, but what I'm looking for from our team is that we get back to the level that we can be - then we'll see what the result is.

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"I think they knew what to expect in the summer, we just didn't reach our levels. Hopefully this time we do.

"I just felt in the summer we stalled a little bit and we want to start that forward momentum again and hopefully that starts on Wednesday."

Ukraine's Roman Yaremchuk scores their side's second goal of the game during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier play-off semi-final match at Hampden Park, Glasgow.

Image: Scotland lost to Ukraine in the World Cup play-offs

Scotland then face Ireland at the National Stadium on Saturday evening before a trip to Poland to take on Ukraine again the following Tuesday, and Clarke knows results could have a significant bearing on the chances of qualifying for the next European Championship finals.

"The Nations League is important as we know because we qualified for Euro 2020 through the Nations League," he said.

"Also if we have a good week we could be seeded for the draw in October for Euro 2024, so it's an important competition for us."

Rangers goalkeeper Robby McCrorie has been drafted into the squad after the withdrawals of fellow Ibrox stopper Jon McLaughlin.

Striker Jacob Brown and defender Grant Hanley have also left the squad ahead of the triple-header.

Stoke striker Jacob Brown is one of three Scotland withdrawals

Image: Stoke striker Jacob Brown is one of three Scotland withdrawals

McCrorie has made only two first team appearances for Rangers and has yet to earn his first cap having last been called up to the squad when on loan at Livingston two years ago.

Clarke, though, insists he has earned his place.

"He's a good goalkeeper. I know he is not in an ideal situation where he is not getting game time, but I know he is working with good goalkeepers at Rangers," he said.

"Even though he is not getting the matches, he is improving as a goalkeeper.

Robby McCrorie's first Scotland call-up was in 2020

Image: Robby McCrorie's first Scotland call-up was in 2020

"Even from the first time I called him in when he was at Livingston I can see that when he comes to the squad he has improved.

"We are not blessed with a lot of young options in that area. Obviously Robby is one that I like and we are going to try and keep him involved as much as possible."

The Scotland manager has no plans to call anyone else into the squad before Wednesday's Nations League match, but could make additions for the final two matches.

"Maybe after the game on Wednesday we'll have to call some players into the squad, but we'll take it game by game."

Scotland squad in full

Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Hearts), Liam Kelly (Motherwell), Robby McCrorie (Rangers).

Defenders: Jack Hendry (Cremonese), Aaron Hickey (Brentford), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Nathan Patterson (Everton), Ryan Porteous (Hibernian), Anthony Ralston (Celtic), Greg Taylor (Celtic), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal).

Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Billy Gilmour (Brighton), Ryan Jack (Rangers), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Kenny McLean (Norwich City), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), David Turnbull (Celtic).

Strikers: Che Adams (Southampton), Ryan Christie (Bournemouth), Lyndon Dykes (Queens Park Rangers), Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United).

Tags: Football

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