WE didn’t get off to the best of starts with the first of our latest World Cup qualifiers. Obviously we didn’t have a full squad of players with some key ones missing due to both Covid and injuries, but this is currently the case with most countries. It was always going to be difficult playing away to a quality team like Denmark but there were certainly a few points that need to be addressed considering our starting line-up and subsequent performance.
The starting line-up and formation came immediately into question with Andy Robertson being played at right wing-back and Kieran Tierney on the left. If this had worked, Steve Clarke would have received praise for adjusting the team in a manner that reduced Denmark’s attacking threat.
As it worked out, we were totally overrun by the Danes and were probably fortunate only to be two down at the interval. They are a really good side and they comfortably exploited our poor set-up to totally control the play and create scoring chances.
The mistake had been made and Steve Clarke must have been analysing things throughout the first half and trying to consider the changes that were required for the second half, both in terms of players and system.
I know he’ll be criticised for the mistaken first-half line-up and the ultimate defeat that we suffered but I would give him credit for the changes he made at half time as these helped produce a much improved display and better individual performances.
The system was the same but putting Ryan Fraser at right wing-back and Robertson on the left side made a considerable difference to how we played.
It became a much more even game and the second-half performances of Fraser, Robertson and in particular, Billy Gilmour were excellent. I’m not completely sure that we were more in the match because of the changes Clarke made or whether it was because Denmark had done their main work in the first half and were comfortably holding onto their lead. There’s no doubt however, that the Scottish players must have restored a level of self belief due to the improved performance.
I said last week that taking five points from our three matches this week would be excellent. This can’t happen now as obviously I was considering one win and two draws. However, now I feel that six points have to be the target over the next two games in order that we can challenge for second place in the group.
I think that Denmark will clearly win the group as they’re winning every match. If we get second place then we’ve achieved a play-off spot which would be good going. The other two teams above us, Israel and Austria, are considering themselves candidates for second place so it’s very important that we begin to pick up points immediately. They are actually playing against each other tonight so at least both won’t be able to gain another three points. Hopefully, this game will end in a draw and we can match points with both come Tuesday.
We can’t take it for granted but we should beat Moldova tonight and then the crucial match comes up on Tuesday when we play Austria away from home. A win in Austria would be crucial as this would set us up for our next match which is against Israel at home in October.
If we pick up the crucial six points over the next two games then the result and line-up error made by Steve Clarke on Wednesday against Denmark will be overlooked.
I don’t want to appear too optimistic but I certainly am hopeful. We need to up our game over the next three matches and if we do, then we can most certainly gain that crucial playoff place.
AND ANOTHER THING
I wasn’t really surprised to see Odsonne Edouard move on to the English Premier League. He’d given the impression for a long while that his time at Celtic was over and his contribution and goals had diminished since the turn of the year. Getting £14million for him was good business although I do feel if he’d kept up his previous form his fee would have been much higher.
The move that surprised me most was Ryan Christie going to Bournemouth. I’m a strong admirer of him as an attacking midfielder and I would have to say that if he’d been moving to Bournemouth as a Premier League club then I would have still felt that he was undervaluing himself.
The fee was surprisingly low but as an international player who is regularly playing in Europe, winning domestic trophies and performing at home in front of sixty thousand fans, why on earth would he go to a Championship club who have a maximum attendance of eleven thousand. He’d need to explain his decision to me.