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Steve Clarke delighted with Scotland progress from Russia low

Scotland v Czech Republic – UEFA Nations League – Group 2 – League B – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Steve Clarke recalled how a low point in the Luzhniki Stadium last year inspired a revival which saw Scotland extend their unbeaten run to eight games with a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic at Hampden Park.

The Scots lost 4-0 to Russia last October in a European Championship qualifier which left the Scots boss even more determined to stop the rot for a country that has not reached the finals of a major competition since 1998.

Scotland beat Israel on penalties in their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final last week after a goalless draw to set up a final in Serbia next month.

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And after beating Slovakia 1-0 at the national stadium on Sunday, Ryan Fraser’s early strike against the Czechs was enough for another victory and took the Scots on to 10 points from four Nations League fixtures, with away games against Slovakia and Israel to come in November.

Clarke, who revealed Dundee United striker Lawrence Shankland missed the game against the Czechs because his wife gave birth, described the victory as “gritty” and looked back at the progress made.

He said: “It’s a slow process that probably started at the Luzhniki last October when we lost heavily.

“We spoke at length after that game about making sure that was a low point and we would build from there.

Ryan Fraser, left, celebrates his goal

Ryan Fraser, left, celebrates his goal (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Eight games unbeaten later I think you can see that we’ve managed to do that and managed to build.

“The players have more confidence now, they feel better. I always say the more caps you get the better you become in international football and that has proven to be the case.

“We wanted a big month.

“We knew we had three home games, to beat Israel and be in the play-off final and we managed to do that.

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“We didn’t want to talk up the Serbia game because we wanted to concentrate on these two matches, we thought there was a good chance to pick up four points – if not six – and we managed to get maximum points.

“That puts us in a really good position going into the games after the Serbia game next month and a big chance to win it and get promotion to the A group which is where we want to be.

“The Czechs have already qualified and the coach had a nice line at the end when he said he wanted to see me next summer in the tournament which was nice of him.”

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Czech Republic assistant Jiri Chytry, in the technical area in the absence of head coach Jaroslav Silhavy who had tested positive for Covid-19, said: “We made it easy for the home team by the way we conceded the goal.

“They could defend and then counter-attack and make it hard for us.

“But I thought Scotland played well tactically and physically.”