Belfast Telegraph

Scotland must be close to perfect to rock Belgians, says Clarke

Belgium v Scotland, Euro 2020 Group I: King Baudouin Stadium, Tonight, 7.45pm

Thinking big: Steve Clarke would love to cause an upset
Thinking big: Steve Clarke would love to cause an upset

By Ronnie Esplin

Steve Clarke has called on his Scotland players to strive for perfection if they are to cause a shock in their Euro 2020 qualifier with Belgium tonight.

The former Kilmarnock boss began his tenure with a 2-1 win over Cyprus at Hampden Park on Saturday to move the Scots three points behind the Red Devils, who have won all three Group I matches.

Although Belgium are ranked No.1 in the world, Clarke believes he knows what is required to beat them in Brussels.

He said: "Hopefully the players will remember the messages they got last week, and then you have to execute your plan.

"We have to hope for an almost perfect performance, certainly defensively. We can't make too many mistakes because we know if we do, we will be punished. They are a good team. We will give them all the respect they deserve, we will try to make it as difficult as possible."

The former West Brom and Reading manager, however, stressed that defending for the whole game is not an option.

He said: "I say to the players that you have to let the opposition know you have the capability to hurt them, 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.

"Belief and mentality is very important. It's something we spoke about a lot last week.

"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."

Belgium beat Scotland 4-0 in a friendly at Hampden Park in September 2018 when Alex McLeish was in charge but Clarke will read little into that.

The former Scotland defender said: "Things have changed. Football has moved on. Every game is different, there are no two matches the same.

"Hopefully a better performance from us and a better outcome."

One of the Belgium scorers that night was Romelu Lukaku, who Clarke worked with at West Brom, and he recalled the Manchester United attacker with some fondness.

He said: "He was a very talented player, it was great to work with him. We had a fantastic season together at West Brom, and he scored 17 goals for us.

"We finished in a very good position. He's got a great work ethic, he was a boy who loved to score goals.

"When he was a young player at West Brom I couldn't get him off the training pitch. I had to go outside and drag him just to rest his legs.

"I'm really pleased he's had such a fantastic career but obviously I hope he doesn't do so well tomorrow night."

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