Scotland boss Steve Clarke hopes his players have realized the goal of making a country smile again after ending a long wait to qualify for a major tournament.
David Marshall’s penalty save from Alexander Mitrovic seals Scotland’s commitment to the Euro 2020 final and their first big stage appearance since 1998.
Marshall came out on top in the 10th penalty of a shootout after a 1-1 play-off final draw against Serbia to the delight of fans recovering from the Corona virus crisis.
Clark said: “This is a very difficult time for everyone around the world with a global pandemic, and it is a very difficult time for the people of Scotland.
“We talked before the game about trying to make the country smile on Friday morning. I hope they smile tomorrow.
“It would be great if we could all give a little better experience about themselves and the country.
“It will take some time before the post-match press conference sinks in, but we know what we have achieved and we know what we are aiming to achieve.
“We’re slowly building up. We often talk about the positivity in the group, and tonight you saw the reward for that.”
Three days later, Scotland retained their top spot in their Nations League group on Sunday and Israel and had a second chance to qualify for the World Cup final.
But Clark hinted that he would not be strict at the players’ celebrations.
“Since the two games are very important games, we will prepare them properly,” he said. We want to succeed in this category and qualify as winners.
He added with a laugh: “But if we’ve going to have a little celebration, it’s going to be strictly private and confidential.”
Scotland reached the final with a shootout victory over Israel, and they converted all five penalties in Belgrade again.
“The behavior they showed was incredible, they got rewarded when we got to penalties, and they kept their nerve again,” Clark said.
“Two big games – it’s doubling the group players, it’s a deserved win. I know the penalties are lucky, but in the game, especially 90 minutes, we deserve to win.”
Scotland took the lead in the 52nd minute with a superb strike from Ryan Christie.
They were relatively in trouble until the Serbian threw the ball into the box in the first half and equalized with a header from Luka Jovic 20 seconds from time.
Before extra time, Clark revealed his calm message to the players.
“Keep believing,” he said. “Sometimes you get a setback at the end of the game that allows you to be affected, of course at the start of extra time
“I told them to keep the faith and work hard.
“We talked before the game that we had a chance to move into Euro 2020. At half time it was 45, with 30 more minutes to achieve what we wanted to achieve in extra time. That’s what we did.”
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