Thursday, April 25, 2024

Scotland will be ready in June and that is most important thing – Steve Clarke

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 26 Mar 2024

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Steve Clarke remains confident that Scotland will be ready for Euro 2024 this summer despite their winless run being extended to seven games with a 1-0 friendly defeat by Northern Ireland at Hampden Park.

The Scotland boss was looking for a response following a 4-0 defeat to the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Friday night but midfielder Conor Bradley’s first international goal gave Northern Ireland a first win in Mount Florida in 50 years.

Scotland have not been on a seven-game winless run since August 2004 to March 2005 and they take on Gibraltar and Finland in June friendlies before facing Euro 2024 hosts Germany in the opening game of the tournament at the Allianz Arena.

“I’m not counting,” said Clarke, who revealed captain Andrew Robertson will be assessed at Liverpool after going off with an injury. “We are going to be ready in June and that is the most important thing.

“The performance was okay, we wanted to win the game.

“Credit to Northern Ireland, I thought they were excellent, good shape, discipline, defended with their lives. We had 14 shots blocked, that is good defending.

“They had two chances and scored with one of them.

“They got the goal with the deflection, we didn’t find enough to get the goal to equalise or go on to win the game.

“We had a lot of the game. We tried our best to open them up. It was difficult to find space.

“It was a totally different game to what we have played recently, we were playing against the top teams and they open the pitch and you saw on Friday night that we manged to create a number of really good chances.

“Tonight when we needed a little bit of craft or guile towards the last third of the pitch we couldn’t find that and that is basically why we lose the game.

“We had more than the lion’s share of possession, 14 shots, but not one good enough to go into the back of the net.

“It’s probably fair to say we’re not very good at friendlies because we don’t win too many of them.

“Let’s hope when we come to the competitive games in June we are ready to go. I’m sure we will be.

“The biggest thing for us is to be ready for June.

“I’m a little bit late into the press conference. I would rather be sitting here in my position.

“Unfortunately Wales have just been knocked out on penalty kicks. It’s not all doom and gloom.”

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill was pleased with his young side’s performance but had words of encouragement for Scotland.

He said: “It was a very good performance. We knew it would be a tough challenge and we knew we would have to be good without the ball and we hammered that message to the players and we have improved on that.

“The goal comes from Conor pressing and he did great, a bit of individual quality to score and then the game changes.

“It is difficult for Scotland, they are behind and we are not going to leave them with a lot of space to play and we made it difficult for them.

“We didn’t allow them too many opportunities.

“We have looked closely at how Scotland has been successful and adopted a similar system.

“The difficulty is when you go behind and how you can change and you have to chase the game, especially at home when you have a lot of possession.

“Scotland will go to the finals and the games won’t be like this, they won’t have that level of possession in Germany and I would imagine that would suit them better because they have very good players.

“They are having a tricky time but I wouldn’t be concerned about that.”

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