Steve Clarke insists Scotland are 'still on schedule' to reach World Cup and addresses whether draw against Austria is good enough

Scotland manager Steve Clarke admits he is unsure whether a draw against Austria in Vienna on Tuesday night will be sufficient to sustain credible hope of his squad qualifying for next year’s World Cup Finals.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke looks on as his squad train at the Oriam in Edinburgh on Monday morning before travelling to Vienna for their World Cup qualifier against Austria. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

With top seeds Denmark now five points clear at the top of Group F after winning all of their first five matches, the Scots are now effectively engaged in a three-way tussle with Israel and Austria for the runners-up spot which secures progress to the play-offs for a place at Qatar 2022.

Clarke believes the potential scenarios in play have subtly altered as a consequence of Israel’s 5-2 thumping of Austria in Haifa on Saturday but insists Scotland are ‘still on schedule’ after beating Moldova 1-0 at Hampden.

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Scotland, now in third place in the group, are two points behind Israel and a point ahead of Austria at the halfway stage of the campaign.

“The result the other night in Israel has probably changed the dynamic of the group again,” said Clarke.

“It’s a slightly different dynamic. This was always going to be an important game for us because Austria are the second seeds and we drew at home with them. It was always going to be an important match in the group.

“But Moldova at home on Saturday was an important match in the group for us. No matter what the result is against Austria, when we play Israel at home next month, that will be an important game in the group.

“If you get the three points in that one, then going away to the Faroes and Moldova in our next two games after that are important games in the group. Every game is important now.”

Asked if a draw in Vienna could be viewed as a satisfactory outcome for Scotland, Clarke replied: “I don’t know. I don’t know in the context of the group or of the game, I don’t. Maybe we play fantastic and draw and we’re disappointed. Or maybe we don’t play so well and nick a draw and we’re happy.”

Clarke, who added Hibs full-back Paul McGinn to his squad on Monday after the injury withdrawals of Nathan Patterson, Kenny McLean and Ryan Fraser, insists he had not been fazed by criticism of him and his team after last week’s 2-0 defeat in Denmark.

“I didn’t really notice it,” he said. “I don’t read a lot of what gets written anywhere when I’m in camp. I'm very singular and have to concentrate on what I think and what we’re going to do as a group.

“We always knew going to Denmark would be a tough game. We knew we had to beat Moldova at home. It would have been nicer to beat them by two or three which probably on the night we deserved.

“But it was also very important that we got the three points. We did that and the spirit within the camp is good. The lads are looking forward to this game and understand the relevance of this fixture.

“It was always going to be big for us no matter what happened previously. We knew this was a big week for us. We said that we wanted to be involved when it got to the October and November games and we’re still on schedule for that.”

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