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Steve Clarke rules out Scotland revenge mission against Kazakhstan

Steve Clarke ruled out a revenge mission in Scotland’s final 2020 European Championship qualifier against Kazakhstan at Hampden Park on Tuesday night.

The Scots began their doomed campaign with a shock 3-0 defeat in Nur-Sultan in March, with Alex McLeish being replaced as boss after the expected win in San Marino days later.

The 2-1 win over Cyprus in Nicosia on Saturday moved Scotland above the hosts into third place in Group I behind Belgium and Russia albeit with no chance of automatic qualification for next summer’s finals, although that can still be achieved in the Nations League play-offs next March.

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Clarke is clear about what he is focusing on against a side visiting Scotland for the first time and who are two points behind, and it is not payback.

Speaking at Hampden Park, the national team boss said: “For me, football is never about revenge.

“It is all about the game coming up. What happened before, happened before.

“We want to finish the campaign on a positive for ourselves. We want to finish third in the section which is the best we can do now and that is what we are focusing on.

“We wanted to produce a big win against one of the two big seeds in the group. We didn’t manage to do that so the next best thing for us is to secure the third spot.”

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After victories over San Marino and Cyprus, the former West Brom manager is keen to extend that winning run to three games.

He said: “It is important because as a national team you want to represent your country and win matches.

“It is something that we haven’t done enough of in the section and we want to finish with three wins on the bounce.

“In the same way in football, everyone talks about how losing games can become a habit, it is the same with winning games.

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“It is important for this group of players to feel good about themselves after we play tomorrow night. But it is good opposition. I have watched Kazakhstan.

“Sometimes you look at the name of the nation and nobody looks at the team that is on the pitch. They are a good team, well-organised with some threats going forward.”

Clarke will for now stay at arm’s length from the discussion about the possibility of domestic games being postponed before Scotland’s Nations League play-off semi-final and possible final which are on March 26 and 31.

There is a full Ladbrokes Premiership card pencilled in for the weekend of March 21 with the potential for Rangers and Celtic to be playing on the Sunday, which could curtail training preparations for the national team.

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He said: “You want the governing body to do all they can to help.

“Everyone understands there may be some restrictions in there but where there is a will, there is a way.

“But for now the most important thing for me is to concentrate on the game tomorrow night and make sure we have a good win and good performance.

“I think this is more a discussion for afterwards, when we have the play-off draw and everyone knows if it is two home games or a home game and away game. It is better to speak after this game.”