Scotland’s coach Clarke wary of Czech second-string in Nations League

Scotland’s coach Clarke wary of Czech second-string in Nations League
France’s forward Kylian Mbappe and Sweden’s midfielder Sebastian Larsson vie for the ball during the UEFA Nations League football match at the Friends Arena in Solna, near Stockholm. (AFP)
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Updated 06 September 2020

Scotland’s coach Clarke wary of Czech second-string in Nations League

Scotland’s coach Clarke wary of Czech second-string in Nations League
  • The Czech football association (FACR) initially said they were postponing the match after beating Slovakia 3-1 on Friday

LONDON: Scotland coach Steve Clarke accepts there will be added expectation on his side when they take on a second-string Czech Republic team in the Nations League on Monday.

The hosts are fielding an entirely new squad of players and coaches due to coronavirus concerns.

Two players were told to self-isolate after coming into contact with a backroom staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.

The Czech football association (FACR) initially said they were postponing the match after beating Slovakia 3-1 on Friday but UEFA confirmed the game would take place as scheduled in Olomouc.

Asked whether there was now more pressure on his men to return with all three points, Clarke, whose side drew 1-1 with Israel in their opening match at Hampden Park on Friday, said: “If people want to say that, that’s fine. We don’t run away from that.

“But we will prepare properly for the game and prepare to play the best team the Czech Republic can put out there and be ready to go.”

Clarke stressed that Scotland’s opponents would still have quality.

“It is the same buildup for us,” said the former West Brom boss, who revealed there would be some changes in personnel and perhaps also a change in formation from the back three deployed at Hampden Park.

“Obviously it will be a new-look Czech Republic team. We have a list of names that I believe is the official squad and myself and the analysts are working our way through so we know what position they play in and how they are.”

He added: “They will be a good level because they are playing in the topflight in the Czech Republic, which is a good level.”

Despite the turmoil surrounding the fixture, the former Scotland defender is happy for the game to go ahead.

“I would be happier if we were playing against the full Czech Republic team but we are in a very strange and disturbing time, if you look at the influence this pandemic has had on everybody,” he said.

“We have to adjust and adapt and will go and play the game.”

European heavyweights England, world champions France, holders Portugal and Belgium all enjoyed winning starts to their UEFA Nations League campaigns on Saturday even if there were signs of international rust following the coronavirus shutdown.

England needed a stoppage-time penalty to beat Iceland 1-0 while France saw off Sweden by the same scoreline.

Portugal shrugged off the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo to thrash Croatia 4-1 with top-ranked Belgium coming away from Denmark with a 2-0 win.

In Reykjavik, Raheem Sterling’s last-minute penalty salvaged England from another embarrassing result against Iceland.

Gareth Southgate’s men also survived going down to 10 men and seeing Birkir Bjarnason miss a late spot kick for the hosts.

Four years on from one of English football’s most embarrassing nights in losing 2-1 to Iceland at Euro 2016, England were far from the free-scoring force that romped through Euro 2020 qualifying in their first match for 10 months.

Harry Kane had an early goal wrongly ruled out for offside before Kyle Walker was sent-off for two bookable offences 20 minutes from time.

All of Iceland’s good defensive work was undone in the 89th minute when Sverrir Ingason was also harshly dismissed for a second booking when he blocked Sterling’s shot with his arm.