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Standards set against Denmark could take Scotland to World Cup – Liam Cooper

Scotland v Denmark – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group F – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Defender Liam Cooper feels Scotland set standards against Denmark that could take them all the way to Qatar.

Steve Clarke’s men guaranteed themselves a home semi-final in the play-offs with a well-deserved 2-0 win against a Danish side that were looking for a 10th win from 10 World Cup qualification games.

Scotland played some of their best football for many years as goals from John Souttar and Che Adams earned a place among the play-off seeds.

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Clarke’s men were composed, positive and purposeful in possession and one first-half counter-attack nearly led to one of the great Hampden goals before a Danish defender blocked Adams’ shot. The Southampton striker finished off another slick break near the end.

It was a sixth-consecutive win for the first time since 2007 for Scotland, and a sixth competitive victory on the trot for the first time since 1930, a run which started with the ‘Wembley Wizards’ beating England 5-1 in the Home Internationals.

The run of form will give Cooper confidence going into March and ahead of the play-off draw on November 26.

“That’s the belief we have got to have,” the Leeds centre-back said. “We have found a system that suits us.

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“I think everyone will agree, if we can play like that, then every game in the play-offs we give ourselves a good chance.

“That’s the target now and that’s the pressure we have got to put on ourselves, to get the performance to that level. It’s tough, it’s difficult, and it’s going to be a good opponent as well.

“We have got to give everything we can and hopefully we can win the semi at Hampden and then, who knows where that takes us?”

Scotland’s potential semi-final opponents are Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Austria, the latter qualifying through the Nations League after finishing behind Scotland in Group F.

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Whoever Scotland play, Clarke will be further emboldened by the fact that Scotland impressed so much against Denmark despite missing a number of players who would arguably have started.

Manchester United’s Scott McTominay, QPR striker Lyndon Dykes, who has scored in his last four internationals, Norwich defender Grant Hanley and Rangers right-back Nathan Patterson were all enforced absentees.

Souttar scored and defended solidly in his first international in three years, Adams led the line brilliantly and netted his second goal in two games, Cooper was a rock in the middle of defence and Motherwell’s Stephen O’Donnell rose to the occasion in place of Patterson.

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Clarke said: “In the first half we had good control of the game against a good Danish team. Obviously they were missing one or two players but we were missing four or five as well.

“There is good depth in our squad. I have just thought about it and I have got to pick a squad in March. Hopefully they all stay fit and make it difficult for me.

“Four months is a long time, a lot can happen in four months. I hope all the players do well for their clubs, keep up their form and I will have the difficult task of picking a squad.

“And we will look forward to the play-off games. We think we are a decent team, we think we are improving, and hopefully we can show that in March.”