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Scotland ready to show they have learned lessons from ‘crazy spell’ in Denmark

Denmark v Scotland – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group F – Parken Stadium
(Image credit: Claus Bech)

Scotland manager Steve Clarke hopes his team show they have learned the lessons of their “crazy” spell in Copenhagen when they take on Denmark on Monday.

Clarke’s side are looking to boost their chances of securing a home World Cup play-off semi-final when they host the Danes at a sold-out Hampden.

Scotland conceded two goals in quick succession against the runaway Group F winners in September and struggled to even get into their hosts’ penalty box during the first half.

But Clarke’s tactical changes saw them compete much better in the second half of the 2-0 defeat and they have won their next five matches to book a play-off spot with a game to spare.

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Scotland will again be without the ill Scott McTominay while fitness doubt Lyndon Dykes is rated 50-50 after missing Friday’s 2-0 win in Moldova through suspension.

Clarke called up two uncapped players. Celtic right-back Anthony Ralston trained with the squad at Hampden on Sunday after being drafted in for the suspended Nathan Patterson, before Hibernian centre-back Ryan Porteous was handed a late call.

Clarke said of their defeat in Denmark: “We improved during that game. There was obviously a period in the first half, and it was quite a short period when you look back at the game.

“I pointed out to the players that between the first and second goals was less than 30 seconds, when you take out all the celebrations. We kicked off, conceded possession and they scored again almost immediately. It was a crazy little spell when we lost our composure.

“I think we have learned from it and hopefully we can show that on Monday night.”

John McGinn

John McGinn is among the players on a booking (Jane Barlow/PA)

McTominay is among eight Scotland players who are one yellow card away from a suspension but Clarke hinted he was prepared to risk playing at least some of the other seven.

Stephen O’Donnell, Andy Robertson, Jack Hendry, John McGinn, Che Adams, Billy Gilmour and Kevin Nisbet would miss the play-off semi-final if they were booked against Denmark.

When asked how he will deal with the situation, Clarke said: “Just try and win the game against Denmark. We’re not the only country in that position.

“It’s just the nature of the competition, you pick up yellow cards. Players at the top level are used to playing matches with a suspension hanging over them. We just deal with it as best we can.

Steve Clarke

Steve Clarke has some selection dilemmas (Tim Goode/PA)

“As long as we get a normal referee, the players are experienced enough to handle the situation.

“There is also the fact the yellow cards carry on all the way through. So you could try to protect players in the Denmark game, they pick a yellow card in the first play-off game, get to the final and it’s the same scenario. There’s also four months to March, it’s a long time in football.”

Resting previously booked players could also harm Scotland’s chances of securing a home semi-final with Clarke feeling they need at least a point and possibly three to get among the seeds.

Hampden was also full for last month’s last-gasp win over Israel, which showed how helpful home advantage could be.

Scotland v Israel

Hampden was full when Israel visited (Jane Barlow/PA)

“The atmosphere in that game was great, the fans were fantastic and probably helped us over the line when we got the later winner,” Clarke said.

“But we have also shown we can go away from home and dig out a victory in difficult circumstances. If we have to play away from home in the first game, we won’t go with any fear.”

Denmark sealed their place in Qatar before this month and are looking to make it 10 wins from 10 in Group F. They had kept eight clean sheets before conceding late on to the Faroe Islands in a 3-1 win on Friday, much to goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel’s obvious disgust.

“They will be at it,” Clarke said. “No doubt they will want to go through the group with a perfect record.

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“And you saw the reaction to conceding a goal. That’s one record they can’t have, they can’t go through the campaign without conceding a goal.

“But they can reach 30 points and I’m sure that’s what they will want to do.

“Looking at their squad, it looks as if they have one or two issues and one or two different faces around but it will still be a very good Danish team that comes here.

“It’s probably the best moment (to play them) because we have secured second place, so it takes a little bit of pressure off the game for us.”

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