Andy Robertson: Scotland boss explains decision to play Liverpool left-back at right-back against Denmark
The switch raised eyebrows and was terminated at half-time when Robertson was reverted to left wingback and Kieran Tierney dropped back to left centre half. The Scots were left with no recognised right back after Stephen O’Donnell and Nathan Patterson were prevented from travelling due to Covid-related issues and they suffered down their right side against the dynamic duo of Joakim Maehle and Mikkel Damsgaard.
Clarke opted against playing Ryan Fraser at right wingback, where he has featured before for Scotland, because he feared the Danes would take advantage of his diminutive stature.
In actual fact they speared Scotland on the other flank with a long high ball that switched play from right to left and Daniel Wass stole in behind Kieran Tierney to open the scoring after 14 minutes.
The Danes sliced through the Scottish defence just over a minute later to score again through Maehle. Although Robertson’s re-deployment together with another striker in Lyndon Dykes being sent on at half-time helped improve the shape of the team there was no way back for Scotland. They have now slipped from second place to fourth in Group F and now face two critical games against Moldova and Austria.
“The team was the team,” said Clarke as he reflected on the events in Copenhagen. “I was worried a little bit about playing Ryan [Fraser] on the right in case they started hitting us with long diagonals.
“I didn’t expect that long diagonal to come the other way and for them to score off that side.
“I don’t think it was a personnel thing. I think it was about general shape where we dropped almost too deep and that stretched the game in the midfield.
“Our midfield boys couldn't get close to them and that caused a problem. Second half when we got higher up the pitch, we looked better.”
Clarke had expressed confidence prior to the game that Scotland could cope with a raft of call-offs while also giving the rampant Danes something to think about. However, his side seemed powerless to handle the intensity of Denmark’s play, with the hosts being cheered on by a raucous capacity crowd.
“It is something we have to learn,” the manager said. “When you come to these top teams, we need to have that resilience to repel everything that is thrown at us, especially early in the game to give yourself a chance.
“Second half in Copenhagen, we stayed in the game and we had some big chances. One near the end from Ryan Fraser with 10 minutes to go that could make a difference.
“We showed a little bit of character in the second half because it would have been easy for us to fold.
“We were better in the second half. The team was more compact. It allowed us to get a better press and we started to play better.”