Scotland have enough mental strength to make sure Ukraine defeat won't leave scars
Steve Clarke’s squad can ill afford to mope about the substandard display which saw them lose 3-1 at home to Ukraine in the play-off semi-final, stretching the nation’s absence from the World Cup finals to at least 28 years.
Scotland return to Hampden next Wednesday when they open their UEFA Nations League campaign against Armenia, quickly followed by further Group B1 fixtures against Republic of Ireland in Dublin on June 11 and the Armenians in Yerevan on June 14.
With the Nations League again providing group winners with a guaranteed place in the play-offs for Euro 2024 in Germany, the significance of the matches is not lost on Armstrong and his team-mates who qualified for the Euro 2020 finals by that route.
The Southampton midfielder has no doubts about their ability to refocus quickly and make a positive start to the four-team Nations League group which also includes Ukraine.
“No, it won’t be difficult to lift ourselves for these games,” said Armstrong. “We’re used to having a lot of fixtures and sometimes they don’t go the way you wanted them to.
“On the pitch, it’s about mentality and this is a strong group of players with strong characters. There’s a lot of togetherness in that dressing room. We’ll learn from this and move forward. We know the importance of these Nations League games.
“Of course, Wednesday night against Ukraine was a big disappointment. We’ve been thinking about the game, trying to get it out of our minds and learn from it.
“Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll look forward to the games coming up because we do know they are very important. It was the Nations League that helped us qualify for the Euros the last time round.
“There’s no hiding the fact that we wanted to go to a World Cup this year and now we’re not. But times have been good recently. We had a lot of big wins and we went to the Euros last summer. We’ve shown we can be a very good team and I’m sure we can show that again in the very near future.”
Armstrong, who won his 33rd cap as a second half substitute against Ukraine, does not believe the Scotland players were negatively impacted or unnerved by the magnitude of the match.
“These games are big pressure,” said the 30-year-old. “There was a place at the World Cup at stake and everyone feels that.
“But we are football players and we’ve got guys who are used to playing big occasions, cup finals and used to playing under a lot of pressure. So as much as the occasion was big, I think when you’re on the pitch you forget that and do your job.
“Ukraine are a very good team but we had belief in ourselves that we could match them and win. We all tried our best but sometimes in football you fall short. For the squad, for the supporters and the country, it’s a big feeling of disappointment we’ve not managed to do it.”
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