SCOTLAND were not the only Group A team who celebrated on Saturday night after recording an away win that maintained their unbeaten start to the Euro 2024 qualification campaign courtesy of a late goal.

Georgia defeated Cyprus 2-1 in Larnaca a few hours after Norway, who they had held to a 1-1 draw in Batumi back in March, had been beaten in Oslo and leapfrogged Spain, who were involved in the Nations League final this weekend, into second spot in the section.

They may not, like their hosts at Hampden this evening, have won all of their outings so far. But their performances to date have underlined, as Steve Clarke stated when the draw was made back in October, that they are formidable opponents. 

“I did say right at the start that I thought we had drawn the toughest group,” said Clarke after overseeing a final training session at Lesser Hampden yesterday morning. “I did say that Georgia will be the toughest pot four team across all the groups. One defeat in 15 tells me that I’m probably right."

Seasoned observers of Scotland will certainly, despite the wins over Cyprus, Spain and Norway that Andy Robertson and his team mates have racked up so far and the feelgood factor those results have created, not be taking a thing for granted this evening when the game against Georgia kicks off.

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The national team suffered painful and costly defeats against their rivals in their Euro 2008 and Euro 2016 qualifying campaigns.

However, Clarke, who has a fully fit squad available to choose from, is unperturbed by those previous failures. He is only interested in the here and now and remains fully focused on picking up another three points and then securing automatic qualification for the finals in Germany next summer. He is confident his men are more than capable of both.  

“Georgia doesn’t give me the collywobbles,” he said. “At that particular time, I was a little bit distant from the national team because I was down south working with clubs. We just have to concentrate on ourselves. What happened in the past happened in the past. We have to make sure that the future is better than the past.

“I have watched their game with the coaching staff. Cyprus actually played really well and hit the bar three times. Both teams were a threat going forward. Georgia are certainly a threat on the counter attack. They’ve got the lad from Napoli (Khvicha Kvaratskhelia). He is a top, top player. And they are solid defensively. 

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“But there is an opportunity for us to create chances. I imagine we will get the low block. They will be hard to break down and we will have to be patient. Hopefully we can break them down and make sure we don’t get caught on the counter.”

The maturity of the Scotland display in the Ullevaal Stadium gives Clarke confidence his charges, who will be roared on by a sell-out crowd tonight, can execute his game plan and make a little bit of history by recording four straight wins at the start of a qualifying campaign for the first time ever.  

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“In the build-up to our first goal, we played 33 passes before John McGinn’s killer pass was half-intercepted,” he said. “It was a long passage of play with the ball. You have to understand that the players are trying to do that for a reason. They are trying to open up the opposition. Fortunately, it worked at the weekend and hopefully it will work again tomorrow.

“Credit to my coaching staff. Credit to the players. There were a couple of times in that move, when we were passing the ball, when we got it to areas where maybe in the past we would just have lumped it into the box. They would have dealt with it and then you lose possession. So we did show a little bit of patience. 

“It’s something that we have spoken about in terms of trying to improve as a group of players. Moving forward you have to look after the ball at this level. It’s important. 

“We now have a group of players who are experienced at international level. They understand that some games can be tricky and they have to be patient. They understand the different nuances of the international challenges, which is great. But we don’t get too carried away. We can still improve. I feel this group of players can still improve.”

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Liverpool left back Robertson is the most capped and most experienced player that Clarke has at his disposal in the Scotland squad and the manager knows his skipper, who was exceptional from kick-off to the final whistle against Norway, will once again be a key man against Georgia.

The Herald: Andy Robertson

“He is absolutely crucial,” he said. “I have a good relationship with Andy, he leads by example. He is not an overly vociferous captain, but you see that performance the other night and you could see how much it meant to him. You could see him driving the team.

“He sets the standards, him and John McGinn and Kenny McLean. Kenny does not always start for us, he is an important part of the squad. Also, your Liam Coopers, those players who have been around the block a little bit. They are driving the standards all the time.

“But the captain the other night was absolutely outstanding. It was probably as good a performance as I have seen from Andy in a long time for Scotland, which is great to see.” 

Clarke was glad that Robertson silenced his detractors in Oslo with an inspired display as he feels the flak which sometimes flies in the direction of the former Champions League winner is unjustified.

“The criticism never came from me or within our camp,” he said. “We know how much Andy brings to our camp and we are grateful to have him as our captain.

“Listen, it goes with the territory and I think Andy understands that. With the experience he has picked up over his time as captain, he understands that some people will say things that are not correct. Within the camp, we know how important and invaluable he is to the group.”