By Brian McLauchlin
- 5 Sep
- From the section Scotland
|Euro 2020 qualifying: Scotland v Russia|
|Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Friday, 6 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app|
Head coach Steve Clarke says Scotland are overdue “a big win” as they prepare to host Russia in Friday’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifier.
Scotland trail the second-place Russians by three points after four matches in Group I.
Clarke’s team face a pivotal three games in their qualification bid, with the visit of Belgium on Monday followed by a trip to Moscow on October 10.
“It’s been a long time since we turned over one of the big boys,” Clarke said.
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“Russia, having been in the last eight of the last World Cup, are one of the bigger teams. We need a big win as a country.”
Scotland’s last notable scalp came six years ago when, already out of the running for World Cup 2014 qualification, they stunned Croatia – then ranked number four in the world – 1-0 in Zagreb.
“It’s about time that we as a nation, rather than being on the receiving end, are dishing out a result that’s deemed an upset,” Clarke added. “Hopefully Friday night can be the case.”
Clarke acknowledged there has been an apathy around the national team – with the absence from a major tournament stretching back to 1998 – and believes victory over Russia can be a watershed moment.
“Over a number of years, we haven’t reached a major finals,” he said. “The more often that happens, the less people start to believe in it. So one big result could change the mindset, not just of the squad, but of the whole nation.”
Naismith training absence ‘no big drama’
Scotland can ill afford to lose further ground after a poor start to the group, losing heavily in Kazakhstan before an uninspiring win at San Marino, which cost Alex McLeish his job as head coach.
Clarke began his Scotland tenure in June with a late 2-1 win at home to Cyprus and 3-0 defeat in Belgium and says Friday night isn’t necessarily Scotland’s best hope of victory in the next three fixtures.
“If you’re pessimistic [it is],” he said. “If you’re optimistic, you think you can win any game.
“All through my career, whichever team I’ve played for, whichever team I’ve been in charge of, I have approached every game thinking we have a chance of winning matches.
“Rather than put the pressure on the one game, over the next three games we have to make sure we get enough points to make sure we’re still in the group.”
Striker Steven Naismith missed Scotland’s final training session on Thursday, but it’s “not a big drama” according to Clarke.
The Hearts striker played only nine minutes for his club on Saturday – his first action in three weeks – after suffering a hamstring injury in the first game of the league season on his comeback from knee surgery.
“Steven didn’t train this morning, he just didn’t feel quite right,” Clarke said. “We felt it was better not to risk him. Hopefully tomorrow he is feeling better.”
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