Sun. Jun 23rd, 2019

Scots must be ‘almost perfect’ to stop Belgium – Steve Clarke

Steve Clarke oversees training in Brussels ahead of Tuesday’s tie
Euro 2020 Qualifying Group I: Belgium v Scotland
Venue: King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels Date: Tuesday, 11 June Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Scotland will need an “almost perfect performance” to stop the best team in the world in Belgium, says head coach Steve Clarke.

The pair meet in Brussels on Tuesday with the top-ranked hosts having lost just once in their last 33 qualifiers.

Scotland sit third in Group I after defeat by Kazakhstan and wins over San Marino and Cyprus.

“We can’t make too many mistakes defensively because we know we’ll be punished,” said Clarke.

“Shape and tactics are important but also the character of the players as well, the personality of the players. We’ve got good players in our squad, players who play at a really good level and they have to relish the challenge that faces us tomorrow.”

Clarke’s tenure as Scotland head coach got off to a winning start against the Cypriots at Hampden on Saturday night, but it took a last-gasp Oliver Burke effort to save the Scots’ blushes.

And the former Kilmarnock boss says the high of getting the result can have a positive impact against Roberto Martinez’s Belgium on Tuesday.

“It’s something that we’ve spoken about a lot last week, about the positivity that we try to build around the camp,” he said.

“I think there was a good feeling going into the Cyprus game. We did the usual Scottish bit where we tried to make a mess of it, but we finished the game well and on a high so we still have that positivity around the squad and hopefully you can see that on the pitch tomorrow.”

‘Getting the balance right’

Clarke is well aware of the task that his players face tomorrow in Brussels, but despite taking on the best team in the world on their own patch, he insists his players will need to show what they can do going forward if given the chance.

“I always say to the players that you have to let the opposition know that you have the capability to hurt them,” said the Scotland head coach.

“So it’s important to get the defensive side right, but if you go through the game and try to play 97 minutes with no attacking threat then it’s going to be a really long night, so you have to get the balance right.”

Belgium thumped Scotland 4-0 in a Hampden friendly back in September the last time the sides met, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and two from Michy Batshuayi doing the damage.

Clarke worked with Lukaku during their time at West Bromwich Albion, and he is well aware of the trouble he could cause the Scots in Brussels.

“He’s got a great work ethic he was a boy who loved to score goals,” said Clarke.

“When he was a young player at West Brom I couldn’t get him off the training pitch.

“So I’m really pleased that he’s had such a fantastic career and obviously I hope he doesn’t do so well tomorrow [Tuesday] night.”

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