Austria still a very good team despite Israel loss, says Steve Clarke

Steve Clarke’s side appear to be in a battle for second (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
14:26pm, Mon 06 Sep 2021
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Steve Clarke insists Scotland will not be reading anything into Austria’s weekend collapse in Israel and will be braced for a tough test in Vienna on Tuesday

The Austrians have come under heavy criticism after suffering a surprise 5-2 defeat in Haifa on Saturday.

The result allowed Scotland to leapfrog Franco Foda’s team to move into third place in World Cup qualifying Group F ahead of Tuesday’s showdown at the Ernst Happel Stadion.

Lyndon Dykes scored the only goal in Scotland’s win against Moldova (ANdrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Clarke refuses to buy into the notion that an Austria team that took Italy to extra-time at Euro 2020 have suddenly become a nation in crisis.

The Scotland manager said: “They are a very good team. They showed that in the Euros. They came out of their group and took the Italians, the team that won it, all the way, which is a difficult thing to do. So they are a good team with good players.

“They have had one or two fitness issues and squad issues. They have players who they probably wanted to be in the squad who are not in the squad, the same as we have.

“It is one of those things you just have to deal with. We will go there and it will be a tough game. It will be a tough game for us and a tough game for them.”

The Tartan Army saw Scotland win against Moldova (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Clarke believes Israel’s victory over Austria has “changed the dynamic in the group”.

He said: It was a very strange game. If you look at it objectively it could have been 4-3 or 5-3 to Austria at half-time. They had some good chances in the first half but didn’t take them. Israel were clinical.

“It was perhaps an unexpected result to some but the last time Austria played in Israel, in a Nations League game a few years ago, Israel beat them 4-2, so there is some previous there.

“The Austrians will now be looking at this game as one they need to win. It’s an important game in the group but they’re all important. We’re all scrapping for points.”

With Scotland seemingly in a three-way battle with Israel and Austria to finish second behind Denmark, Clarke is aware of the importance of avoiding defeat in Vienna.

He said: “I thought Moldova was quite a pivotal game. We had to get three points there, and we did that. This is just another game that’s important in the group.

“I always felt this would be a group where teams would take points off each other and I feel the dynamic of the group has changed with Israel beating Austria. In qualifiers, every point can be important towards the end goal.

“There are so many results that can go one way or the other, so it’s best if we just concentrate on this game, look for a good performance and get the best result we can get.”

Clarke has added Hibs defender Paul McGinn to his squad after losing Nathan Patterson, Kenny McLean and Ryan Fraser to injury.

He said: “I did say after the game on Saturday that I had seven or eight doubts so losing three at least means four or five have made it.

“With the turnaround, and the schedule for (coronavirus) testing, it’s almost impossible to bring players in at this stage.

“Paul’s not the first one we’ve tried to call up over the course of the camp but he’s the first one we’ve managed to get in so we’re grateful to Paul for making himself available and jumping through the hoops to make sure he’s part of the squad.”

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