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Battle for Euro 2020 places has already started – Scotland boss Steve Clarke

Steve Clarke File Photo
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Scotland manager Steve Clarke saw the battle for places in his Euro 2020 squad begin already as his players moved on from their play-off success and post-match revelry.

Dressing room and hotel footage of the squad’s celebrations following Thursday’s win over Serbia has gone viral with the players savouring the team’s first major qualification since 1998 with some drinking, singing, dancing and even a conga.

But Clarke insisted they had now set aside their European Championship achievement and were fully focused on gaining more success in the Nations League.

Scotland will guarantee top spot in Group B2 and promotion to the top tier plus a potential World Cup play-off place if they win one of their remaining two matches, against Slovakia and Israel.

And Clarke insists the effects of Thursday’s celebrations will have no bearing on his selection for Sunday’s clash in Trnava.

Lyndon Dykes will drop out through suspension while Andy Robertson is a doubt with a tight hamstring and other players will be assessed.

When asked if he would make more changes than normal, Clarke said: “The short answer is yes. The long answer probably takes in the fact the celebrations wouldn’t have anything to do with it. It was a good celebration but it wasn’t crazy, it wasn’t silly and over the top.

“It was a physically-draining game but emotionally also very, very draining for the players who were out on the pitch.

Scotland celebrate their shoot-out success

Scotland celebrate their shoot-out success (Novak Djurovic/PA)

“I will give them another 24 hours and speak to three or four players who I have maybe got a doubt about going again after such a tough game, and then I will come up with a team selection that hopefully gets us another three points.

“I trust all the players, that’s why I select them. The ones I brought into the camp last month, I trusted them and they deserved to be on the pitch.

“I watched the training session this morning and I said to one of my coaching staff, they are already playing for their place at Euro 2020. I could see it in training.

“And that’s what it’s all about. That qualification is in the cupboard, it’s something waiting on us next summer, and all the lads can put themselves in the squad by their performances in the camp or out the camp.”

Clarke added: “The celebrations stopped on the night. To be fair to the players and the staff, we did enjoy ourselves. It was a good night. But they broke up naturally.

“We enjoyed the celebrations as we should do after such a long wait, but we trained this morning and it was a good training session, getting ready for the game.”

Clarke had urged his players to lift the nation’s mood before the Belgrade decider but he is happy to be remote from any joy that might distract from the task in hand as Scotland bid to make it six wins on the trot and 10 games unbeaten.

“With social media and the fact media is so readily available, you get a good feel for how the nation is, and from what I can tell, we certainly made them smile, we made them happy, which is great,” Clarke said.

“But we are a long way away from it as well and in a way that’s going to help to get them focused on the two very important games coming up.

“The players understand the importance of the next two games and I think everyone involved in the Scottish squad understands that we are in Euro 2020 because of the pathway started under Alex McLeish and his staff and that players at that time two years ago.

“The Nations League is very, very important to us. The next pathway could be to the World Cup 2022 and that’s got to be the goal as well.

“The mind set will be the same – the players are on a very good winning run and want to take it to double figures.”

Meanwhile, one of Clarke’s assistants, John Carver is on crutches after rupturing his calf during the celebrations.

“Unfortunately for John it’s a sore one,” Clarke said. “I should emphasise he got the injury on the pitch, not when they were doing the conga later on.”