IT may not quite be Mission: Impossible for Scotland against Belgium at Hampden tonight even though their bid to qualify automatically for the Euro 2020 finals will self destruct if they slump to a defeat.

But beating or even drawing with Robert Martinez’s side, who finished third in Russia 2018 last summer and are currently on top of the FIFA World Rankings, is a tall order and then some for Steve Clarke’s team.

Andy Robertson and his compatriots have lost three and won just two of their five Group I matches to date and were well beaten by Russia at home on Friday night. Their prospects of beating the top seeds and runaway leaders are almost non-existent.

So what can Scotland do to pull off a major upset against such formidable adversaries and keep their chances of finishing in the top two in their section alive this evening?


Steve Clarke has told his Scotland charges exactly what is required of them tonight against Belgium – a performance without any mistakes.

They gifted Russia both of their goals on Friday by switching off fleetingly at crucial moments. Against the top teams on the planet any error is punished ruthlessly. Give Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens the ball in dangerous areas and they will take full advantage.

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It will not be easy given the relentless pressure the national team’s defenders and midfielders will be put under by their opponents and the lack of time they will have on the ball. But they must retain possession far better than they did in their previous outing to prevail.


Clarke was alarmed by the nervousness which crept into his team’s play after they had taken an early lead against Russia on Friday and at the start of the second-half after the visitors had levelled.

He will have spent the days since that 2-1 reverse encouraging the likes of Ryan Fraser, Scott McTominay and Stephen O’Donnell to trust in themselves and their own abilities. If his men take to the field fearing a hammering and simply hoping to keep the scoreline down there is only going to be one outcome.

If they go out intent of causing their rivals problems going forward and pulling off a shock result then they might just do so. Scotland have individuals who ply their trade at a high level in the Premier League in England and the Premiership in this country. They must convince themselves they are every bit as good


Scotland were well beaten in their first meeting with Belgium in this qualifying campaign in Brussels back in June. But they did create scoring opportunities going forward. Indeed, Oliver Burke, who was given the nod to lead the line, could have put his team in front when the scoreline was 0-0. But he snatched his shot wide after being sent clear by Stuart Armstrong. If that had gone in then maybe the match would have turned out differently.

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Matt Phillips looks like taking over from Oli McBurnie in attack this evening. If he gets a sniff of goal in the final third he must take it. The same goes for those behind him. Ryan Christie and Robert Snodgrass look set to get drafted in. The former has scored the majority of his eight goals this season from long-range. He should try his luck against Thibaut Courtois whenever he can. The latter can use his nous and experience going forward.


Steve Clarke will probably keep faith with the four men – Stephen O’Donnell, Charlie Mulgrew, Liam Cooper and Andy Robertson - who started for Scotland against Russia on Friday night due to the lack of alternatives available to him.

O’Donnell is, with Liam Palmer of Sheffield Wednesday withdrawing and Ryan Jack returning to Rangers with an injured knee, the only right back. David Bates, meanwhile, has played in just one competitive match in the 2019/20 campaign. Mikey Devlin, meanwhile, is young and inexperienced. It would be asking an awful lot of him to make his debut against Belgium.

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But could adding Bates to the rearguard be a tactic worth pursuing? The Sheffield Wednesday man has coped with the step up to international level in the past. Could asking Scott McTominay to drop back and act as an auxiliary centre half work?

Having an extra body at the back could make the national team more difficult, for all the creativity and pace of their rivals, more difficult to break down.


Scotland used to be at their very best when their chances of success had been written off and all hope seemed lost. But years of declining standards have meant the giant-killing acts they used to pull off on a not infrequent basis are now a thing of the past.

Steve Clarke asked the question on Thursday before the Russia game. When was the last occasion that Scotland really made the football world really sit up and take notice with a win over one of the top international sides on the planet? You have to go back to the win over Croatia back in 2013. Or even France in 2007.

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The difficulties which Scotland will face against Belgium this evening are due to a lack of investment in their youth system and the money their visitors have ploughed into their own innovative set-up. Their best hope could be slipping Polish match official Pawel Gil a brown envelope with a few zloty stuffed in it.

Just avoiding a demoralising drubbing will be an achievement of sorts.