STEVE Clarke has attributed Scotland’s diminished displays against Georgia and Norway to the fact they had already qualified for the Euro 2024 finals and stressed his charges need a fear factor to perform at their best.

The national team rounded off their remarkable qualifying campaign with a 3-3 draw against Norway in their final Group A match at a packed Hampden on Sunday evening.

John McGinn and his team mates, who secured qualification with two matches to play last month,  failed to perform at the same level as they had in their first five fixtures in the outing.

It was a similar story in the 2-2 draw in Tbilisi on Thursday evening when the visitors needed an injury time goal from substitute Lawrence Shankland to get a point.  

However, Clarke, who was without automatic starters Angus Gunn, Aaron Hickey, Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson and Che Adams for the double header, believes the games being meaningless had led to the dip.

He is clearly optimistic that Scotland will be able to reproduce the sort of form they showed in their wins over Cyprus, Spain, Georgia and Norway when the tournament gets underway because the stakes will be so high once again. 

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“We’re very humble,” he said. “We want to be competitive every time we go to the pitch. But we know that we have to be 100 per cent. Maybe in the last two games because we had qualified we weren’t.

“We had never been in that situation before. It would be fantastic to be in this situation again, don’t get me wrong, but we had never been in this situation before. I had never been in that situation before.

“You have to find that extra motivation where you go out onto the pitch with the fear of losing. I don’t think we had that in the last two games. You need to play with the fear of losing matches, that just gives you that little bit extra edge.”

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Clarke continued: “That is maybe why we started so flat. We were maybe savouring the atmosphere too much. We are Scotland, we have to go into every game determined to be competitive. I didn’t think we did that in the first half. But we did a lot better in the second half.”

“There is always disappointment when you don’t feel that you’ve played to the level that you know you can play at. That was disappointing. But, listen, I am not going to be too hard on this group of players because they have been fantastic for us.”

Clarke preferred to focus on the triumphs which Scotland recorded during their campaign – and admitted the home win against Spain in March and the away victory over Norway in June had been key to their qualification.  

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“Don’t forget that Norway were the next closest seed to us,” he said. “We took four points off them, we took four points off Georgia, we took six off the bottom team and the qualification game was the night at Hampden when we beat Spain 2-0. Don’t forget how good they were that night and how good the performance was.

“The Kenny McLean goal in Oslo was a massive goal for us. We capitalised well on the fact we had three out of four home games early. Then obviously going to Norway and giving them a bloody nose with the two late goals was crucial.

“It would have been nice to finish with a flourish instead of conceding a late equaliser just as we were about to put on another centre half and shore the game up. We conceded, but fortunately that hasn’t happened too much during the course of the campaign.”

Clarke experimented with a 4-2-3-1 formation during the Georgia and Norway games and he feels doing so will prove invaluable going forward even though Scotland failed to win either of the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

“Obviously we are missing key defenders,” he said. “We had still to play with a back four. I was looking more at the combinations in midfield, the attacking combinations, to see what we could do.

“I have shown before that I can change in game. When we have to chase the game we can go from a five to a four. Sunday was a game where if I had been a little bit more reactive we could have gone from a four to a five. We have to find different ways to win matches. That was the thinking behind these two back four performances.”