STEVE Clarke has banned all talk of the Euro 2024 play-offs in the Scotland squad so that his players are fully focused on qualifying automatically for the finals in Germany next summer.

Andy Robertson and his team mates are guaranteed a place in the play-offs after topping their Nations League section last year.

However, Clarke, whose men reached the Euro 2020 finals after beating Israel and Serbia in the play-offs, is determined for the national side to finish in the top two in Group A.

He believes he has seen international sides blow their chances of getting into the tournament in the past because they had secured a play-off spot and is wary of Scotland suffering the same fate.

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“What play off?” he said as he looked ahead to the Euro 2024 qualifier against Pot One opponents Spain at Hampden this evening. 

“We want to qualify direct. That’s my answer to the question. We do not speak about the play off. 

 “We are not speaking about the play off. We want to qualify directly from the group. 

“I have not spoken to the players about the play off. I have not spoken about it. Only because it is not good for my heart, play offs.

“I just want to go through the group. That’s the mentality. So we have to go with that mentality.

“I know it gives you the freedom to go and play because if you mess up. But there’s no point thinking about the play offs. It does not take any pressure off this game because we want to qualify out of the group stage.”


Meanwhile, players will take to the field against Spain tonight believing they can rack up a famous victory in the Euro 2024 qualifier after being told they should not have an inferiority complex by Clarke. 

Luis de la Fuente’s men, who beat Norway 3-0 at home in their opening Group A match on Saturday night, are top seeds in the section and favourites to triumph this evening in front of a sell-out 50,000-strong crowd.

De la Fuente has freshened up his squad since replacing his namesake Enrique back in December – but he still has superstars like Dani Carvajal, Rodri, Alvaro Morato and Dani Olmo at his disposal.

However, Clarke, whose side defeated Cyprus 3-0 at Hampden on Saturday, is confident his charges are more than capable of overcoming the 10th placed team in the FIFA World Rankings and has driven that home to them in his pre-match pep talks. 

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“We have spent the last couple of days talking about positive mentality going into the game,” he said. “If you don’t believe you can get anything then you don’t get anything. So we have to believe we can get something from the game. I have carried that mentality right through my career.

“We have players who have played Champions League football and Europa League football. Some play in the English Premier League against top quality opposition every week.

“So the majority of the team - in fact the majority of the squad at this minute - are used to this level of opposition. Therefore we shouldn’t be going in with a feeling of being the underdog.

“I know we love that, the Scottish mentality is that we love being the underdog. But I think we can be competitive against Spain at Hampden. And I think the players think they can be competitive against Spain at Hampden. That’s a good basis to start on.”


Scotland beat Denmark, the Euro 2020 semi-finalists who at the time were the 10th best team on the planet, 2-0 in their final Qatar 2022 qualifier in 2021.

Clarke, who will field Lyndon Dykes up front after Che Adams was ruled out by a calf injury, would like to see the same sort of display.

He feels beating the former World Cup and European Championship winners would boost the national team’s chances of finishing in the top two in the section and qualifying for the finals in Germany next summer enormously.

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“That was a good night,” he said. “But it was at a different stage of the group and that comes with different pressures as we’d already qualified for the next stage. We could play with a little bit more freedom.

“This is a game we know that if we get something it could stand us in good stead for what’s down the line. But we don’t know how the group is going to pan out. You don’t know who is going to beat who across the eight games.

“So that game against Denmark should give the players the belief that they can handle a game of this level.

“We also went to Wembley and played against England, another elite team in Europe, and acquitted ourselves well (in a Euro 2020 group game). So we have shown we can do it. But there is no point in thinking about what you did last year. Or the year before. It’s about what we’re going to do this year.”