In doing so, Clarke’s side banked a play-off place for Euro 2024. But the Scotland manager has already insisted that he doesn’t expect Scotland to need the insurance policy secured in battling style with a 0-0 draw against Ukraine.
Potentially more significant is the guarantee of being placed among the top two seeds in next month’s draw for the regulation qualifying campaign.
Scotland are projected to qualify for Euro 2024 automatically as one of the top two teams in their group. That would circumvent the need for a potentially hazardous two-match play-off. Clarke’s side lost out to Ukraine in June in a World Cup semi-final play-off but gained some measure of revenge in Krakow after a dogged performance secured the point required to top Group B1.
“This has been a good week,” said Clarke, who also oversaw wins over Republic of Ireland and Ukraine. “It’s about trying to make ourselves better to move things forward again.
“Instead of taking a step forward this week, we’ve taken a giant leap. We’ve found another way to play, we’ve found other players in the squad who can do very, very well for us. The squad is stronger.”
Clarke utilised 21 players across the three games and made a successful switch to a back four despite injuries, suspension and illness hampering his plans.
The manager is confident Scotland will continue on an upward curve. As well as being entitled to feel optimistic about their Euro 2024 qualifying prospects, Scotland can also now look forward to competing in League A of the Nations League alongside the likes of Italy and Germany.
“I think we want to improve,” said Clarke. “You see it in the players and their performances this week. It’s nice to have the safety net of the play-offs but I feel we can qualify outright. I would expect this team to qualify directly.”