Scotland: Steve Clarke rues missed opportunity after Israel defeat

Scotland’s defeat in Israel was a missed opportunity and highlighted “how far we’ve got to go”, said head coach Steve Clarke, as his side fell short of promotion to Nations League A.

After ending their 23-year major finals exile with Euro play-off success over Serbia last week, Scotland were beaten in Slovakia and then Israel.

Victory in either tie would have won Group B2 for Clarke’s men.

“We have to be better. We have to improve,” he said.

“We wanted to be top. We wanted to challenge ourselves in the A group.

“We’ve come a long way in a short time. We shouldn’t forget how far we’ve come but we know how far we’ve got to go if we want to be regularly successful and regularly qualifying for tournaments.

“We have to go away from home and get good results. Effort and endeavour – you can’t fault the players for that in the two games. But the little bit of quality was missing when we needed it.”

‘Important to focus on positives’

Despite his disappointment at failing to seal promotion with defeat in Israel on Thursday night, and the potential 2022 World Cup play-off it brings, Clarke was keen to “take the highs” from a historic week for Scotland.

With a Euros spot secured, his side learn their World Cup qualifying opponents next month before the road to Qatar gets under way with a triple-header in March.

“Qualifying for a major tournament, it was a magnificent achievement and a long time since it had been done,” he said.

“We go away disappointed to lose the last two games 1-0. But it’s important we focus on the positives from the week. And it was a big positive.

“I’ll reflect on the last two performances more than the first one. Hopefully we can start in a really good place when we get to March.”

Having failed to score in back-to-back defeats, Scotland end the year with only six goals from eight games.

“Hopefully it will come,” added Clarke. “We have to keep believing we have goals in the team.

“Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen shots tonight, seven on target. One or two of the chances at this level, if you want to be successful, have to be goals.”

BBC News