STEVE Clarke last night conceded that Scotland’s hopes of qualifying automatically for the Euro 2020 finals were over following a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Belgium at Hampden.

Clarke, whose side slipped to fifth in Group I after suffering the heaviest defeat in their history in a qualifying match at home, has now targeted a third place finish in their section.

He wants the national team, who are nine points adrift of second-placed Russia with four matches remaining, to build up momentum in their remaining four qualifiers ahead of the play-offs in March.

“The group is over in terms of qualification,” he said. “What we have to do now, and we spoke about it after the game, is target third position.

“It doesn’t look very good where we are in the table just now. There are 12 points up for grabs between now and the end of this qualifying campaign and we need to make sure we finish third in the group. I

“It’s good for us in terms of ranking and seedings and also if you finish third in the group it’ll mean that we have performed well and won a few games and picked up points, which should give us confidence going into the play-off games in March.”

Clarke added: “I’m four games into my tenure. I don’t like losing games, I don’t like losing games heavily. So we have to try and address that in the four games coming up.

“It’s not always about building. I’m not going to experiment in the next four games. I don’t have to experiment, I have to work with the players at my disposal and I have to make us better and certainly more resilient defensively.”

But Clarke, whose side conceded three goals to Romelu Lukakua, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Aderweireld in the opening 32 minutes and Kevin De Bruyne six minutes from the end, insisted he had seen some encouraging signs in the Scotland performance.

“I hope that some of the true fans out there, the fans who recognise football, will see that there were some moments in that game that were good for us,” he said.

“We lost 4-0 and it’s really painful, but people have to be honest as well and look at certain aspects of the game and say ‘yeah, there were some good things within that game, some good individual performances and at times a good team performance’.

“Now we have to make sure that we improve defensively. After conceding one against Cyprus, three in Belgium, two at home to Russia, another four tonight, we have to tighten up defensively.

“It (defending at set plays) is something we have to address. It comes down to individual battles, one v ones. We have to look at the shape of team defensively at set plays and see if we can improve what we had tonight which was not good enough.

“We have to continue to work on the path that takes us to qualification for Euro 2020. Now that’s going to be the play-off route and we have to embrace that.”