Steve Clarke makes Erling Haaland claim, addresses Scotland's Euro 2024 seeding, and dismisses Nathan Patterson question
The Scotland manager was reacting to confirmation from the Norwegian Football Federation that the Manchester City striker will be missing this evening due to an ankle injury picked up in the friendly win over the Faroes Isles last week.
Haaland is six goals short of equalling the Norway international goals record, which has stood for nearly ninety years. He has 27 goals in 28 appearances.
But he won’t be adding to this total this year after sustaining the ankle knock, which Norway manager Stale Solbakken last night said was not serious. He explained that Halaand had wanted to come on against the Faroe Isles. There was surprise when the striker made an appearance in the low-key friendly. “It was his choice," said Solbakken. "He wanted to play 45 minutes to keep momentum in a week when we were not training much.”
Clarke is conscious of the sell-out crowd that has been attracted to Hampden tonight as Scotland return to the national stadium for the first time since qualification was secured last month. Haaland was undoubtedly part of the attraction. Arsenal's Martin Odegaard is also ruled out.
Clarke would obviously be interested to see how his defence coped against a world-class striker before next summer’s finals. “In the context of this game, yes of course I wanted Haaland to play,” said the manager.
“It would have been nice for the Scotland fans to see him on the pitch at Hampden too. It’s unfortunate that he is injured. If it was competitive, my answer would probably be different!”
Only a Pot Two place ahead of the forthcoming Euro 2024 draw is potentially at stake for Scotland, whose chances of topping a regulation qualifying group for the first time since 1991 now appear slim. Spain would have to lose at home to Georgia with Scotland taking maximum points against Norway, who they haven’t beaten at Hampden since 1978.
Clarke stressed that what pot they might be in when it comes to next month’s draw will have no bearing on tonight’s outcome, since it was impossible to predict the results of other games across the groups. It has been suggested that Scotland’s ambitions of reaching the second stage of a major tournament for the first time might be better served by being in Pot Three.
“Nobody knows who will be in the pots,” he said. “We will play our game, other nations will have their games, who is going to be in Pot Two and Pot Three, I don’t know. I am just happy to be there. I don’t take prestige from that (being in Pot Two). I am just happy we are in the tournament. Whatever draw we get, we will take.”
As ever, Clarke would not be drawn on his likely personnel with another decision to be made in the goalkeeper position. All he did confirm is that No 3 choice Robby McCrorie would not start. Hearts 'keeper Zander Clark will hope to keep his place ahead of Liam Kelly having been handed the gloves in the 2-2 draw with Georgia on Thursday.
“Zander has a chance of playing, so does Liam,” said Clarke. “The only one who definitely won’t start out the goalies is young Robby, who needs to find a bit of game-time. No injuries. Everyone is well and we don’t need to worry about yellow cards either.”
Meanwhile, Clarke was asked how Nathan Patterson was faring since the news broke about Everton being docked ten points by the Premier League for breaching profit and sustainability rules. The Goodison Park club have now slipped into the relegation zone. Had the manager spoken to the player, who has been in and out of the Everton side this season?
"Nope,” he said. “We have not been docked any points. That is club business. But I was delighted he got a game (v Georgia). He played the other night.”
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