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5 talking points ahead of Scotland’s World Cup qualifier with Denmark

Croatia v Scotland – UEFA Euro 2020 – Group D – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Scotland take on Denmark in their 2022 World Cup qualifier in Copenhagen on Wednesday night.

Steve Clarke’s squad has been decimated due to injury and coronavirus issues ahead of the fourth Group F fixture.

Here, PA News agency takes a look at five talking points ahead of the encounter which precedes a home game against Moldova and a trip to Austria.

Absence makes the heart sink

Scott McTominay and Stephen O’Donnell are among Scotland's absentees

Scott McTominay and Stephen O’Donnell are among Scotland’s absentees (Andrew Milligan/PA)

David Marshall, Jon McLaughlin, James Forrest, Greg Taylor, Stuart Armstrong, Scott McTominay, John McGinn, Nathan Patterson, Kevin Nisbet and Stephen O’Donnell are missing the Denmark game for various reasons, with the latter four available again after the match in Copenhagen.

Set-piece coach Austin MacPhee, a new member of Clarke’s backroom staff, will miss all three games with Covid-19.

Clarke admitted it has been his most “disruptive” camp since he became Scotland manager. He still believes he has enough quality in his squad to get a positive result, but it will take an almighty effort against the Euro 2020 semi-finalists.

Out with the old, in with the old

Craig Gordon is set to be Scotland's number one

Craig Gordon is set to be Scotland’s number one (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Marshall was the hero of Scotland’s qualification to the finals of the Euros with his save in the play-off penalty shootout win in Serbia.

However, the 36-year-old has fallen out of favour at Derby and that has cost him his place in the squad.

Hearts keeper Craig Gordon will reclaim the number one spot, ahead of Motherwell’s Liam Kelly and Zander Clarke of St Johnstone.

The 38-year-old has been in top form for the Tynecastle side since returning in 2020 for a second spell and is aiming not only to win his 58th cap, but to keep the number one jersey.

Defensive options limited

Ryan Fraser could have an unfamiliar role to fill

Ryan Fraser could have an unfamiliar role to fill (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Motherwell’s O’Donnell and Patterson of Rangers were the two natural right-backs in the original squad.

The former can also play wing-back when Clarke goes with a back three, as can Celtic’s James Forrest, but he too is out.

Unless Clarke moves Arsenal’s left-sided defender Kieran Tierney over to the right, it will have to be Newcastle United’s Ryan Fraser who starts at right wing-back.

Pressure for points

John McGinn's goal earned Scotland a point against Austria

John McGinn’s goal earned Scotland a point against Austria (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scotland have five points from their opening three qualifiers ahead of the crunch triple header.

Clarke’s side dropped points in draws against Israel and Austria which leaves little room for error, even so early in the section.

Scotland possibly need as much as seven points from nine in the three games to get their qualification hopes back on track with some confidence. Given the fixtures, it is a tall order.

Danish dynamite

Denmark impressed at Euro 2020

Denmark impressed at Euro 2020 (Mike Egerton/PA)

Denmark reached the semi-finals of this summer’s Euro 2020 Championships where they lost to England at Wembley after extra-time.

Kasper Hjulmand’s side will resume their 2022 World Cup qualification campaign with nine points from nine so far, including an 8-0 victory over Moldova as well as convincing away wins against Israel and Austria.

Scotland will have their work cut out to take away a point, never mind win, but realistically they have to start picking up unexpected points if they are to have any chance of qualifying for the finals.