SCOTLAND could have drafted Kenny Dalglish, Colin Hendry and James McFadden in for this Qatar 2022 qualifier against Denmark tonight and it still would have made no difference to the final outcome.

The national team’s slim hopes of getting a result against the Group F leaders in Copenhagen were dealt a series of blows during the build-up when no fewer than seven players were forced to withdraw.

That Steve Clarke was unable to call up any replacements for Stuart Armstrong, James Forrest, John McGinn, Kevin Nisbet, Stephen O’Donnell, Nathan Patterson and Greg Taylor due to UEFA coronavirus testing protocols did nothing to help their cause.

Yet, the gulf in quality between the hosts’ performance and that of the visitors in a packed Parken was so great it would have mattered little if Clarke had been allowed to bring in reinforcements.

Recording a draw against a side which had won all three of their previous matches in the section – scoring 14 goals and conceding none in the process – would have been an achievement of sorts for Scotland considering the disruption to their preparations.

Still, their performance, in the first-half especially, was concerning. Clarke’s men were cut open easily at the back and offered next to nothing going forward. Their second-half display was much improved and they were unlucky not to pull a goal back. Their lack of a cutting edge in the final third, though, remains an issue that must be addressed.

Kasper Schmiechel, the Leicester City goalkeeper who credits the time he spent in this country with Falkirk as being crucial to his career, had just one save of any note to make during the course of the 90 minutes.

Scotland will not face a better team at a more difficult venue in their remaining six qualifiers. But with Austria and Israel both winning and leapfrogging them in the table there is now little if any margin for error. They must do far, far better if they are to finish second and advance to the play-offs.

Clarke had stated that he could field Ryan Fraser as a right wing back once again in the absence of O’Donnell and Patterson. He also conceded that switching Kieran Tierney from left centre half was a possibility. But he did neither.

He sprang a major surprise by moving his skipper Andy Robertson to right wing back, picking Scott McKenna, Liam Cooper and Grant Hanley in his favoured back three and shifting Tierney to the left wing back role. Nobody saw his selection coming.  

His opposite number Kasper Hjulmand was missing a few potential starters himself; Martin Braithwaite of Barcelona, Kasper Dolberg of Nice and Jannick Vestergaard of Leicester were all out. But seven of the side that started the Euro 2020 semi-final against England at Wembley in July featured. And they quickly showed their class.

Denmark scored two goals in the space of two minutes in the first-half to effectively kill off the game as a contest take a step closer to the World Cup finals in the Middle East next year.

Right back Daniel Wass put his country ahead in the 14th minute when he got in behind Tierney, thanks in no small part to the sly nudge in the back he gave his rival, and met a diagonal cross from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg at the back post. His perfectly-placed header left Craig Gordon with no chance.  

Joakim Maehle struck just 92 seconds later. The left back played a cute back heel to Mikkel Damsgaard on the edge of their penalty box and then burst forward. The winger dinked a chip between Grant Hanley and Kenny McLean. The defender brought it down on his chest and then slotted through Gordon’s legs with the outside of his right boot.  

The Scotland keeper, restored to the Scotland side after David Marshall was omitted from the squad, did well to keep the scoreline down in the 33rd minute when Wass picked out Yussuf Poulsen in acres of space in his area. He blocked the striker’s dipping volley with his left shoulder.

Clarke had to do something at half-time to get Scotland back into the game and he did so. He replaced McKenna with Lyndon Dykes and rejigged his line-up. Tierney moved to the left of back three with Robertson outside him, Fraser dropped back to right wing back and the substitute went up front alongside Che Adams.

Gilmour fired past the left post with a long-range effort and Robertson made a good break down his flank and cut inside only to fail to find McLean with a pass. It was much better. Should it have been the team that started?

Gordon did well to get a hand to a Thomas Delaney shot after an hour. But you sensed that Denmark were content to conserve energy and protect their comfortable lead as proceedings wore on. They sat back and invited Scotland on to them.

Ryan Christie came on for Adams and gave the away team a much-needed lift going forward. Callum McGregor finally got a shot on target in the 74th minute after good work by Dykes and McLean. But his attempt lacked power and Schmeichel gathered it easily.   

The keeper, however, did superbly did push a Fraser shot out for a corner seven minutes later after Dykes had laid the ball off to his compatriot. David Turnbull replaced McLean late on and Lewis Ferguson made his debut when he came on for Gilmour in injury-time. But they could have played until midnight and not salvaged anything from the evening.