Why Steve Clarke not worried about Scotland's poor finishing in Luxembourg as he makes Tartan Army claim

As he watched his players pass up a hatful of chances to rack up a far more resounding victory in Luxembourg on Sunday evening, Steve Clarke remained typically impassive.

Lyndon Dykes failed to add to his Scotland goals tally in Luxembourg but manager Steve Clarke was pleased with the QPR striker's performance. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)
Lyndon Dykes failed to add to his Scotland goals tally in Luxembourg but manager Steve Clarke was pleased with the QPR striker's performance. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)

But the Scotland manager’s poker face wasn’t hiding even a hint of anxiety over the wastefulness displayed by his team in their last preparatory match ahead of the Euro 2020 finals.

On the contrary, Clarke insists he is more than content with the firepower at his disposal ahead of Scotland’s Group D opener against Czech Republic at Hampden next Monday afternoon.

“I don’t think so,” was his phlegmatic response when asked if he was concerned by the generally poor standard of finishing in Luxembourg

Che Adams, Scott McKenna and Grant Hanley congratulate each other after Scotland's 1-0 victory in Luxembourg. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)

“When you are creating chances as we are, you know the goals will come. We have scored enough goals in recent matches to know that we can score against international opponents.

“As long as we defend properly and defend well, one might be enough. That’s key, that’s crucial - if we get the selections right, the team right, the shape of the team right.

“Listen, everything during the tournament is going to be spot on. It’s always difficult when you come to the last friendly before you go to a major tournament.

“You can try as much as you like to say the right things and make sure everybody is flat out. But when the tournament is so close to starting, it’s difficult to get that last little bit. I think the finishing was just the last little bit that we didn’t quite have.”

Che Adams fails to convert one of several chances missed by Scotland during their 1-0 win in Luxembourg on Sunday evening. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)

Striking options

While Che Adams, who scored the only goal against Luxembourg, and Lyndon Dykes both scorned premium opportunities to bolster their respective international tallies ahead of the Euros, Clarke was more interested in how the pair linked up as a strike partnership.

He saw enough from both to persuade him that the deployment of an orthodox front two is a credible alternative to playing an attacking midfielder like Ryan Christie just off one of the main strikers.

“That was one of the exercises I wanted to try out in the two friendly games against Netherlands and Luxembourg,” added Clarke. “It was good to get them both on the pitch and take the chance to get a look at that combination on Sunday.

“It was a good one. Even if it’s not always how you start the game, it’s something you can always go to.

“It’s always nice to have two strikers on the pitch and we finished the same way when we took a defender off.

“You can’t say we didn’t try to get the next goal. We finished up with a 4-2-4 formation which gave us four chances and unfortunately we couldn’t finish them.

“I think maybe both strikers could have come away with a couple each. We created enough and were a little bit disappointed they didn’t finish them and that we weren’t a little bit more ruthless, but hopefully we’re keeping our shooting boots for the tournament itself.”

Ready to be bold

The enterprising manner of Scotland’s display in the 2-2 draw against the Dutch last Wednesday challenged perceptions that Clarke may favour a more pragmatic and defensive approach when the tournament begins.

While the 57-year-old coach will always prioritise the organisational and tactical side of the game, there are signs he is ready to let his players off the leash as an attacking force.

“We go into the tournament with a real positive attitude,” he said. “We want to enjoy it and the best way to enjoy it is to go out there and play your best football.

“We will try to be on the front foot as much as we can – as much as the quality and the opponent allows us as well.

“I don’t think we have to be afraid. Over a period of time we have worked hard on trying to get better and better

“They gained confidence and definitely got a big shot in the arm when they managed to break the hoodoo and qualify in the game against Serbia.

“I think since then they have started to believe in themselves a wee bit more and the more good results you get against good teams, then the more you believe.

“We have worked hard over the last year or 18 months. We have put together a decent run of two defeats in 16 games.

“So that is a reasonable run at any level of professional football. We are in a good place going into the tournament and we just want to be competitive and do the very best we can.”

Crowd pleasers

Clarke’s players were reintroduced to the experience of playing in front of a crowd in Luxembourg with around 1000 fans inside the Josy Barthel Stadium. It has whetted his appetite for there being around 12 times that number at Hampden for Scotland’s momentous return to a major tournament finals after a 23-year absence.

“There was a bit of an atmosphere in Luxembourg and it was so good to have people back in the stadium,” reflected Clarke.

“We look forward to having as many members of the Tartan Army against Czech Republic as possible.

“It might be that 12,000 at Hampden doesn’t sound a lot. But they will make enough noise for this team, I’m sure of that.

“They will be delighted to be back in the stadium and we are equally delighted to have them back.

“We are going to go out and do our best in the tournament for the fans, that’s all we can promise. Hopefully that’s enough to make people proud and take us far.”

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