Yes, says Graeme McGarry

Leaving aside the fact that Scotland already have the safety net of a play-off in the bag through the Nations League, there is still hope in the qualifying section too.

The defeat to Kazakhstan has left us needing snookers, granted, but there was enough about the performances over the last week to suggest that beating Russia at home and getting something from them away is not so outlandish a possibility.

In a short space of time, this Scotland team under Steve Clarke already look more compact, more organised and a hell of a lot more committed to the cause than they have been in some time.

If they can take a lot of what they did from a defensive point of view in Belgium when they travel to Russia, Scotland definitely have the attacking players to cause them problems.

There was a little bit of criticism came Scotland’s way for the manner of the win over Cyprus on Saturday, but Russia too only beat them by a single goal on home soil, and that should give the Scots hope that they can trouble Russia there too.

Before that though, there is the crucial home double-header against the Russians and Belgium in September. Beating Russia is a must, then as unlikely as it may be, snatching something from Belgium has to be the aim.

Even if Scotland do fall short in this group, it will be because of the damage done in Kazakhstan rather than from what happens from here on out, and the worst case scenario should be that we are going into the play-offs with the wind at our backs.

Believe, says Matthew Lindsay

GROUP I has an ominous look about it for Scotland after four games. They trail leaders Belgium by six points, Russia by three and Kazakhstan on goal difference. Their prospects of finishing in the top two and progressing to the Euro 2020 finals next summer don’t look great.

But all is not lost. There was enough in the win over Cyprus on Saturday and even the defeat to Belgium last night to suggest that the national team can recover from their disappointing start and go through automatically.

New manager Steve Clarke has only had a handful of training sessions with his players. But his team was compact and well-organised in both games. They also looked as if they wanted to play for their new coach and the country. How much more could the Tartan Army expect at this early stage in Clarke’s tenure?

When the former Newcastle United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa assistant and West Brom and Reading manager has had more time to familiarise himself with the demands of his new job and work with his charges on the training ground then things should improve further.

The double header has shown he has some talented individuals at his disposal. Ryan Fraser, Callum McGregor, Kenny McLean and Andy Robertson all had their moments. If Clarke can get a few players back, like Leigh Griffiths, Steven Naismith and Kieran Tierney, then matters should improve.

The games against Russia and Belgium at Hampden in September and then Russia away in Moscow are huge for Scotland as they bid to reach the finals of a major tournament for the first time since France ’98. Beat Russia home and away and take something from Belgium in Glasgow and who knows what will happen?

The play-off will provide a welcome safety net if the opening defeat to Kazakhstan proves costly.