Steve Clarke aware Norway have ‘a lot of good players' as well as Erling Haaland
Steve Clarke insisted there is more to Norway than Erling Haaland after naming his squad for the resumption of Scotland’s European Championship qualification campaign in Oslo.
The Scots, who began their Euro 2024 qualifiers in March with impressive home wins over Cyprus and Spain, travel to Norway for their June 17 clash before hosting Georgia at Hampden Park three days later.
Clarke’s side face the daunting task, in the first match of the double-header, of trying to stop 22-year-old Manchester City striker Haaland, who has scored a staggering 58 goals in all competitions so far this season.
Speaking in Glasgow’s George Square at the McDonald’s Fun Football Festival, which is part of the Scottish Football Association’s week of football, he said: “There are a lot of good players in the Norway side that we have to deal with as well as Haaland, who has obviously had an outstanding season.
“He is a top quality player. We need to make sure we are organised and make sure we play well and don’t make too many mistakes.
“We respect everybody, we respect our opponents all the time and we will give Norway and Georgia our full attention.”
Asked if he was wary of the focus being too much on Haaland, he replied: “I am wary of the fact that you are going to go down the line of Haaland, Haaland, Haaland.
“There are lots of other players that we need to deal with as well.”
Rangers centre-back John Souttar is one player who could be asked to shackle the Norway goal machine.
The 26-year-old, who returned to the Rangers side at the back end of the season after missing much of the campaign through injury, has not played for the national team since last summer’s Nations League defeat in Ireland.
Souttar takes the place of Norwich centre-back Grant Hanley, who has been sidelined with an Achilles problem since early April.
Clarke said: “When you lose players of the quality of Grant Hanley, whom we have lost for a considerable period of time, which is unfortunate for Grant, it is nice to have someone like John come back into the squad and hopefully he can show the form that he showed before any time I picked him for his country.”
Hearts striker Lawrence Shankland and his Hibernian forward Kevin Nisbet have been included in place of Stoke’s Jacob Brown, who missed the end of the Championship season with a hamstring issue, and Southampton’s Che Adams, who recently suffered a recurrence of the ankle injury he sustained in Scotland’s win over Cyprus.
Shankland, who previously made four appearances between October 2019 and November 2020, was recalled for the Spain game in March and has kept his place at the end of a campaign in which he has scored 28 goals for Hearts.
Nisbet, who won all of his 10 caps in 2021, is included for the first time since damaging his anterior cruciate ligament in February 2022. The 26-year-old has scored 12 goals for Hibs since returning to action in December.
Asked about the absence of Adams, Clarke said: “It is always disappointing when you lose key players, but you tend to get used to it.
“You normally name a squad and you lose key players all the time so, disappointing for Che, disappointing end to the season getting relegated with his club.
“He tried to come back and probably aggravated his injury trying to help his club so disappointing for Che but a chance for Kevin Nisbet to come back into the squad.
“Kevin is a goalscorer, we know the qualities he brings us. He has been in the squad before.
“Lawrence is in the squad, same qualities, he can score goals and don’t forget we have Lyndon (Dykes) as well.
“I thought he was really good in the game against Spain. We have enough quality up front.”
Clarke is looking to build on the fine start to the campaign which has brought six points from six.
He said: “When you are playing in a five-team group, eight games to qualify, every game is important.
“Every point that we can get over the summer is going to help us to the ultimate target, which is to qualify for Germany.”