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James McFadden backs Scotland if ‘absolutely magnificent’ England clash happens

England v Scotland – UEFA Euro 2020 – Group D – Wembley Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Former Scotland international James McFadden believes Steve Clarke’s side will be in a stronger position for a repeat major tournament encounter against England – if they can get through the World Cup play-offs.

The draw for this year’s finals in Qatar delivered the prospect of an Auld Enemy encounter on November 29 – a day before the 150th anniversary of the first meeting of the teams in football’s first international.

Scotland have a major task in getting to the Middle East with a delayed play-off semi-final against Ukraine pencilled in for June and a potential final against Wales in Cardiff to follow.

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But confidence is high following an unbeaten eight-match run, which included six consecutive qualifying wins.

Scotland impressed in a 0-0 draw at Wembley in the European Championship finals last June but lacked a cutting edge.

Lyndon Dykes has since scored in four consecutive appearances and Che Adams has grown in stature in the international arena.

And McFadden is filled with optimism ahead of Scotland’s final qualification push.

“Scotland are in a really good place at the minute,” the former Motherwell and Everton forward told BBC Sport.

“We spoke about the Euros and the performance at Wembley was really good. We got slaughtered for celebrating a 0-0 draw but it was a great performance and I think it showed the potential of the young team.

“Over the course of the qualifying campaign, a really good performance and result against Denmark has shown that this team has really grown, and they have responded to the disappointment of not being able to get out of the group stages of the Euros.

“It was always a worry, because we hadn’t been to a major tournament for so long, to get to the tournament and have a couple of games at Hampden and not really play as well as we know they can, but the response from the players and management has been outstanding.

“The last game of the group against Denmark was such a strong performance. How far we have come, even in the space of six months, is remarkable, which gives us hope that it can be much further improvement come the play-off in June.”

McFadden, who scored 15 goals for his country, added: “Now we are in a really good place, we have a strong squad, good options all over the pitch, and we go into these games in June with great confidence and optimism that we can get the job done.

Scotland’s James McFadden celebrates scoring against Moldova in 2005

Scotland’s James McFadden celebrates scoring against Moldova in 2005 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“And then again, if all goes well, going into the World Cup in a really good place, with a strong squad, I think we will be in a much better position if – and it’s a massive if – we manage to qualify.

“It will be tough but the big incentive is obviously to get to a World Cup, we haven’t been there since 1998, and to top it all off, you get to play against England again in your group, which would be absolutely magnificent.

“It’s a big enough incentive in itself to get to the World Cup but knowing that you’re going into a group again with England is great and I’m sure it will motivate the players going into those play-off games.”

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