STEVE CLARKE has told his Scotland players they have to raise their performance level for the visit of Spain on Tuesday night, believing many of them thought the game against Cyprus was too easy.

The Scotland manager was pleased overall to get the nation’s European Championship qualification campaign started with an ultimately convincing 3-0 win, but there were aspects of his team’s display that frustrated him, particularly as his men took the foot off the gas after going ahead in the first half.

Clarke has told his players that if they want to take the next step in their development and become consistently one of the top teams in Europe, they will have to eradicate such sloppiness from their play.

“It’s a good start to the group with three points,” Clarke said.

“There were some good things and other bits we need to get better at. But overall, it was very pleasing. It’s nice to start the campaign with what looks like a comprehensive home win with a 3-0 scoreline.

“Let’s look at the positives. In the first 30 minutes, I thought we were outstanding. The rotations and movement on both sides was really good. (Andy) Robertson and (Aaron) Hickey were getting forward, (Kieran) Tierney and (Ryan) Porteous were stepping in from the back. (Stuart) Armstrong was picking up good positions and running with the ball.

“I thought we were really good for half an hour. But then I just felt we got a little bit sloppy and casual.

“I told them at half-time: ‘Maybe you feel it’s a bit too easy - but it’s not because the scoreline says it’s not’.

“The second half was about trying to pick up the momentum we had in the first 30. It took us a bit longer to do that than it should.

“You’re always looking for the second goal in a game like that because that will probably be the crucial one.

“[But] it’s a better start than we’ve had to a European Championship campaign in a long time.

“Against the teams seeded lower than you, it’s important to pick up maximum points at home.

“Cyprus were good and organised but we managed to contain them. There wasn’t much threat on our goal.

“But at 1-0 it’s always nervous. It’s a really good start but we have to try and back it up on Tuesday against the Spanish.

“We always want to improve. You always want the perfect performance and it’s rare that you get it. But you have to look for it all the time. In saying that, if we don’t get it on Tuesday night and still get a result, we’ll come away happy. 

“It’s about striving for standards. We’ve improved a lot but to do the next bit - that will make us one of the better teams in Europe and a consistent pot two team - it’s difficult.

“Because you have to eliminate those slack moments in the game which give your opponents a chance.”

Clarke did save some special words of praise for John McGinn, whose opener on the day was his 16th for Scotland, all of which have come under Clarke’s management.

“It looks like a good decision to push him a little bit further forward!” he said.

“If I take any credit, that’s the only thing I did right.

“No, it’s all down to John. He arrives late in the box really well and his finishing is normally really clean.

“It looks like an easy goal he scored but he still had to have the technique to put it in.

“That’s now 16 goals he’s scored and for a midfield player - even though I use him as an attacking midfield player - is a great return.

“He’s also had six assists so it’s a big contribution to what we’re trying to do. It’s nice to have him.”