Despite the result meaning Scotland have taken maximum points from their first five Group A games, Clarke - typically - was not getting carried away. He might have no choice but to accept that Scotland are bound for Euro 2024 as soon as Tuesday, when a draw – and only a draw – between Norway and Georgia, while Clarke's side are playing England, would secure their qualification. Otherwise, Scotland need two points from their final three qualifiers.
Optimism is high after a thorough dismantling of Cyprus in sweltering conditions in the AEK Arena. Goals from Scott McTominay, Ryan Porteous and John McGinn had wrapped up the points within the first half and hour and leaves Scotland tantalisingly close to next summer’s finals. Some fans are already booking plane tickets. “I am pleased that the fans think they can book their flights,” said Clarke. “The fans can do what they like, they can be excited and be carried away. We just have to focus on what we do. We came here to win the game and that’s what we did,” he added. “It’s another step on the road to what we want to do, which is qualify. We have to be pleased.”
Many feared Scotland might slip up in Cyprus, as previous sides have tended to do when faced with challenges they are expected to overcome. The visitors made a mockery of these concerns by posting a professional performance. As well as scoring three times, they also hit the post through McTominay. “We blocked out the noise,” the manager said. “That's what we did. We came here just to win the game, we didn't think we are on 12 points we can go to 15. We came to win the game. That's working pretty well for us, that mentality. The players are level-headed. They didn't want to make a mistake tonight and trip up and undo what they had done in the first four games."
“We were keyed up for the game,” he continued. “It was hot and humid and when we got in front we didn’t need to chase the game. But I was just as pleased with the second half as I was as the first as we had control of the game. The first half was good because we got the goals, the second half was good because we controlled the game. I’d like to think in the last three games we are going to pick up more points. We just keep trying to push ourselves and not be complacent.
“The Scottish mentality is there is going to be a hiccup or a bump on the road. So that was something tonight, we said come here tonight and be different from previous teams. Win against the pot five team so that you have taken six points from the pot five team. In the last World Cup campaign we took 12 points off the pot five and pot six teams. That's your platform to qualify."