Date: 16th November 2021
SFSA Scotland writer Ben Ramage looks back on an incredible night at Hampden Park as Steve Clarke’s side earned a seeded playoff spot in style.
Scintillating Scotland prove World Cup dream can come true with stunning Denmark victory
It’s one of the most difficult qualities to instill in a footballer and a team.
Coaches spend years trying to get players not to rush decisions, to keep a cool head under pressure and to keep possession to starve your opponents of the ball.
On Monday night Steve Clarke’s Scotland side managed all three with simply stunning aplomb.
With a chance to be seeded and crucially avoid a semi-final clash against the likes of Italy, Portugal and Russia on the line, Clarke’s men produced a classy performance to rival any collective effort this country has mustered in well over a decade.
Not since an impressive 3-1 victory over Ukraine in 2007 have Scotland looked so confident on the ball and so well-oiled as they did on Monday night.
The midfield trio of John McGinn, Billy Gilmour and Callum McGregor have firmly solidified themselves as first choice with yet another superlative group performance.
Like car components, each compliments the other while bringing their own unique quality to the table.
McGregor is the non-stop engine that keeps the whole team running. Gilmour is the wheel that cleverly steers us in the right direction.
And McGinn is the unstoppable accelerater that drives us forward, past teams that previously stopped us in our tracks so easily before.
The level of comfort and technical ability displayed by every dark blue jersey inside Hampden Park against Denmark was a joy to behold for Tartan Army soldiers more used to watching crunch decisive games nervously through their fingers.
The quality of each player to take their time under pressure, stick to the game plan despite Denmark’s press and play through the lines was at a different level to what we’ve seen in recent decades.
And it was all topped off by an emotionally significant moment when Hearts star John Souttar powered home a header to open the scoring, ending three long, painful years of rehab work with a moment that every young Scot dreams of –
sending a sold out Hampden Park in a crunch qualifier wild.
Che Adams of course put the finishing touches to the result with a fine goal that showed his striking quality, brushing aside his marker before taking his time to calmly slot past Kasper Schmeichel with consummate ease.
His best performance in a Scotland shirt so far came alongside so many other incredible efforts, with Liam Cooper and Stephen O’Donnell also so impressive despite not even being automatic starters in this talent-laden squad.
The likes of Manchester United star Scott McTominay, Norwich skipper Grant Hanley and Rangers lynchpin Ryan Jack are still yet to come back into this side, with goal machine Lyndon Dykes also missing over the course of this international break.
That strength in depth is another massive step forward for Scotland, who have so often in recent years been one injury or suspension to a key player away from a selection crisis.
The reward for such a sublime showing against previously unbeaten Denmark comes in the form of thankfully dodging one of the biggest guns in the playoffs, of which there are many, in the semifinals next March.
And while they likely still lay in wait in the final, firstly Clarke’s side simply have to focus on that momentous semi-final clash at Hampden.
Looking at that performance on Monday night, no European team left in the unseeded pot would fancy their chances in an away tie against Scotland to make it through to a coveted playoff final.
We’ve always had the Hampden roar in our corner, but now we’ve got a squad stuffed with talent, desire and guts who know how to perform to their best when the chips are down.
And what else will we need most come that crucial playoff semi-final at Hampden?
With Clarke’s Scotland machine purring like it is after years of development and honing, we’ve got every right to believe one final shot at making the World Cup in Qatar is well within our reach.
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