Steve Clarke got "two pillars wrong" in Ukraine defeat says former Scotland boss

Craig Levein believes Steve Clarke made the first two errors of his Scotland tenure in the set-up for the World Cup play-off defeat to Ukraine at Hampden.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke saw the World Cup dream end at Hampden. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Scotland boss Steve Clarke saw the World Cup dream end at Hampden. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Having led the national team to Euro 2020 and then to the brink of World Cup 2022, it is an enviable record for recent managers but the latest bid ended in disappointment and a 3-1 defeat at the National Stadium

One of Clarke’s predecessors and former Hearts boss, Levein, believes the gameplan didn’t make the most of Scotland’s midfield ability and left Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour outumbered against Oleksandr Zinchenko and co. while the home defence looked ‘uncomfortable’ when matching up to Ukraine’s attack.

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“I don’t recall Steve making many errors in his time in charge,” Levein said on BBC Sportsound. “I just think he has obviously had a plan clear in his mind and I think the idea was to go forward earlier, get the ball up to Lyndon Dykes for a flick-on to Che Adams. But when you’re playing McGregor and Billy Gilmour in midfield those two aren’t the type of players that are watching the ball go over their head and shuttling back and forward. They take the ball and want to try to play.

“I think he got two things, two pillars, wrong. He played two up with John McGinn pushed right up behind them and that left Callum and Billy Gilmour with three players to play against. Then the back three going man for man, they never looked comfortable at all. They weren’t sure when to go in or when to come behind – that was evident at the first goal when they were caught.”

Andriy Yarmolenko lifted a lovely lob over Craig Gordon for the opener with a ball straight down the middle in the 33rd minute. Roman Yaremchuk scored a header early in the second half which gave Scotland a hill to climb even after replacing Dykes with Ryan Christie at the interval and changing the gameplan and coming into the match more in the second half.

Leveon added: “I’m not going to pillory anyone for making a mistake managerially, but I do think genuinely for the first time this was an error.”

Clarke must now pick Scotland up for Nations League games with Armenia and Republic of Ireland.

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