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ANALYSIS: Superb Scotland strike fear into potential World Cup play-off opponents with win over Denmark

Scotland's John Souttar celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 against Denmark at Hampden.
Scotland's John Souttar celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 against Denmark at Hampden.

Potential World Cup play-off opponents will surely fear landing a rampant Scotland in the draw for the March showdown.

The history-making Scots won a sixth successive qualifying match for the first time to lay down an emphatic play-off marker.

It secured Scotland a seeded spot in the play-offs.

If Scotland can outplay group winners Denmark, the world’s 10th-ranked team and Euro 2020 semi-finalists – they can see off any team they come up against in March.

That is the strength of the message from a memorable 2-0 defeat of Denmark.

Scotland’s continued ascent under manager Steve Clarke continued with their best performance to date.

A minute silence is held in memory of Walter Smith and Bertie Auld ahead of Scotland’s World Cup qualifier with Denmark.

The one-legged semi-final will now be played at what will be a sell-out, and raucous, Hampden.

Near-100-year winning record equalled

To put the manner of this victory in context, it is the first time Scotland have won six straight competitive games since March 1928 to February 1930.

This is a Scotland team growing in confidence and stature with each game.

That will not go unnoticed by potential opponents in the play-off draw, which is on November 26.

Well-disciplined, organised and with a team spirit and unity that is unshakeable, the Scots are just two games away from Qatar 2022.

Just two wins away from reaching the World Cup for the first time since France in 1998.

Scotland’s John McGinn and Jannik Vestergaard in action in the World Cup qualifier at Hampden.

Play like this and Scotland can end 24 years of World Cup pain.

Outplayed the group winners

The enormity of the challenge facing the Scots was underlined by Denmark’s unblemished record of nine wins from nine Group F.

Denmark were bidding to become only the fifth nation to finish a European World Cup qualifying campaign with a perfect record.

Only Germany (2018), Spain (2010), West Germany (1982, 19620) and Soviet Union (1962) had it done before.

Denmark couldn’t join this elite club as they were outplayed and outfought by Scotland.

Brave call by Steve Clarke pays off

Scotland boss Steve Clarke made a brave call in starting five players who were one yellow card away from being suspended for the play-offs.

Che Adams celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 Scotland during a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Denmark.

Captain Andy Robertson, John McGinn, Che Adams, Billy Gilmour and Stephen O’Donnell all walked a suspension tight-rope.

However, none of them tempered the ferocity of their challenges, nor their commitment.

Clarke’s brave call paid off as none of them were booked.

The final game of previous qualifying campaigns has been either a nervous, angst-ridden 90 minutes where Scotland need a win, or a miracle, and fail to get it, or a meaningless bounce game after another failed campaign.

Scotland captain Andy Robertson in action against Denmark in the World Cup qualifier.

Closing out the group with a play-off spot already secured is a new, very welcome experience for the Tartan Army.

However, it wasn’t entirely nerve-free as the Scots needed at least a draw to secure seeding in the World Cup play-offs in March.

They delivered an emphatic win courtesy of goals from John Souttar and Che Adams.

Other confirmed group runners-up are Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Sweden.

The continued rise of Billy Gilmour

In winning a tenth cap at the age of 20 years, 157 days, Billy Gilmour became the third-youngest Scot to hit double figures with appearances.

Only Paul McStay (1985) and Willie Henderson (1963) have reached that mark at a younger age.

Scotland’s Billy Gilmour takes a corner against Denmark at Hampden.

Gilmour displayed a maturity and game intelligence way beyond his young years and despite his lack of club action in recent months.

On loan from Chelsea at Premiership strugglers Norwich City, Gilmour has not played for the Canaries since a 3-0 League Cup loss to Liverpool on September 23.

There was no ring rust from Gilmour, with his club exclusion perhaps firing him up to prove a point.

If that was the case it was mission accomplished.

Gilmour was highly influential in the heart of midfield alongside John McGinn and Callum McGregor.

The trio dictated the tempo of the game and drove on the Scots.

In the 23rd minute, Gilmour brilliantly nut-megged Christensen in the penalty area in the build up to a Che Adams shot that was blocked by a superb save from Schmeichel.

It was a spark of genius from Gilmour.

Gilmour’s delivery from corner kicks caused havoc in the Danish defence and led to the opening goal from John Souttar.

The Chelsea star was tidy in possession and rarely missed a pass and was always looking to turn and instigate an attack.

In the 62nd minute, Gilmour unleashed a 25-yard volley that was saved by Schmeichel.

Gilmour was replaced by Norwich City team-mate Kenny McLean in the 74th minute and left the pitch to a deserved standing ovation from the Tartan Army.

Norwich recently axed manager Daniel Farke. Surely his replacement, former Aston Villa boss Dean Smith, will utilise the exciting talents of Gilmour.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the World Cup qualifier against Denmark.

Aberdeen-born Souttar the goal hero

Scoring capped a dream return to the Scotland team for Aberdeen-born Hearts defender Souttar, who came in for a first appearance for his county since being sent off against Israel in 2018.

Souttar, 25, has suffered a horrendous time with injuries since, but his revival stepped up another notch with a start and a goal.

A strong performance was not only about the goal – starting in a back three he made vital interceptions, tackles and blocks.

SCOTLAND (3-4-2-1): Gordon 7; Tierney 8 (Ralston 88), Cooper 7, Souttar 8, Robertson 7 (McKenna 76), McGregor 8, Gilmour 7 (McLean 74), O’Donnell 7, McGinn 8, Christie 7 (Armstrong 76), Adams 7

Subs not used: Clark, McLaughlin, Porteous, Turnbull, Nisbet, Ferguson, Brown.

DENMARK (4-3-3): Schmeichel 7, Maehle 6, Vestergaard 6, Kjaer 7, Kristensen 6, Jonsson 5 (Stage 56), Christensen 6 (Bah 82), Wass 6, (Dreyer 82) Bruun Larsen 5 (Sisto 56), Cornelius 7 (Uhre 72), Skov Olsen 6

Subs not used: Vindahl-Jensen, Ronnow, Maxso, Riis.

REFEREE: Alejandro Hernandez (Spain).


MAN OF THE MATCH: John McGinn (Scotland)