THE 2-0 defeat that Scotland suffered at the hands of Denmark in Copenhagen on Wednesday night by no means ended their hopes of making it through to the World Cup finals in Qatar next year.

Yet, the loss resulted in the national team slipping to fourth place in Group F behind Israel and Austria, who both won their midweek games, and leaves them little if any margin for error in their remaining six qualifiers.

Victories over minnows Moldova at Hampden tomorrow evening and Austria in Vienna on Tuesday night are now a must if second spot in the section and progress to the play-offs is to be secured.

So how does Steve Clarke ensure there is no repeat of the dire first-half display against the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in The Parken? What does the manager need to do claim maximum points from the next two matches? Here are five things which may make a difference.



Clarke identified exactly why Scotland were struggling against Denmark on Wednesday night and made the positional and personnel changes that rectified the problems at half-time.

Deploying Andy Robertson at right wing back in the absence of both Stephen O’Donnell and Nathan Patterson had not gone well. His defence looked uncomfortable and were repeatedly cut open.

His skipper fared far better on in his natural position on the left in the second-half and got upfield well.

Lyndon Dykes, too, provided much more of an outball up front alongside Che Adams than Ryan Fraser, who stands all of 5ft 4in in his Nike Mercurial Vapor 14 cleats, had.

The call-offs in the build up to the game – no fewer than seven players pulled out of the original 26 man squad due to injury and coronavirus – complicated Clarke’s selection no end.

But this is not the first time he has got his starting line-up wrong and had to alter things following the opening 45 minutes. It happened against the Czech Republic at Euro 2020.

Getting his team spot on from kick-off will make a huge difference. It certainly did against Serbia in the play-off final in Belgrade last year and England at Wembley in June. 



Asking any of his players to start three matches in the space of just seven days is a sure-fire way to anger their clubs.

There should, then, be several changes for the meeting with Moldova this weekend. Ryan Christie and Jack Hendry and, if they are available, John McGinn and Kevin Nisbet could well feature.

But deciding what his best defence is for important games will be beneficial both for those who are picked and for the team.

Kieran Tierney, Liam Cooper and Grant Hanley did well enough after half-time in Copenhagen. Hopefully they will get the nod over in Austria.

Changing his rearguard has often been unavoidable. But it has done nothing to help those picked develop an understanding and perform at their very best.



Scotland have now netted just once in their last four competitive outings. The calibre of the opposition, the Czech Republic, England, Croatia and Denmark, was admittedly decent. Still, their lack of a cutting edge in the final third has been a definite problem.

It must be frustrating for their coach as in Adams, Christie, Dykes, Fraser and McGinn he has individuals who have proved they can score at international level.

The number of clear-cut chances the visitors created on Wednesday night was disappointing; Kasper Schmeichel only had one save of note, from a Fraser shot late on, to make during the 90 minutes.

McGinn will certainly help if he is fit. He has been on target 10 times in his 36 appearances to date and was joint second top scorer in their section in the last qualifying campaign.

But perhaps a change of emphasis, and an injection of creativity, is required.



Bournemouth’s new signing had a disappointing Euros. He carried his underwhelming club form with Celtic last season into the finals and was only involved in the first-half of the first Group D game. But the playmaker has very much got his mojo back this term.

He was unplayable at times in his final outings for the Parkhead outfit at home and abroad. He can provide the guile and composure in attack that was badly missing against Denmark. He made an impact when he came on in the second-half in Copenhagen and was involved in the build-up to the Fraser shot.

Clarke is a huge admirer of the man whose first-half strike against Serbia was so important to his side winning the play-off final and booking a Euro 2020 finals place and should bring him in for Moldova and Austria.



Having only come on at half-time in The Parken, Dykes could theoretically start in the remaining matches of this triple header.

Having the 6ft 2in 25-year-old, who has been in fine form for Queens Park Rangers in the 2021/22 campaign and has scored three times in just five Championship games, in attack will give both the Moldovan and Austrian defence problems and potentially ease pressure on the Scotland defence.

The Australian-born forward is still finding his feet at international level and can blow hot and cold. He was excellent against England, but struggled to make his presence felt against Croatia. Playing more games, though, will help him achieve greater consistency. On his day, he is a potent weapon.