Steve Clarke insists he is giving no consideration to which pot Scotland end up in at Euro 2024 as he focuses on trying to end their successful qualification campaign on a high against Norway at Hampden on Sunday.
The Scots sealed their spot in Germany last month, with two games to spare, and will learn who they will face in the group stage when the draw is made in Hamburg on Saturday, December 2.
A victory by two goals or more against Norway this weekend would likely lift the Scots into pot two, while any other result is set to place them in pot three.
Given the way things are shaping up – with the likes of Albania, Hungary and Turkey among the teams on course to be in pot two – there is a school of thought among Scotland supporters that they may have a chance of an easier draw by remaining in pot three.
“Honestly, zero, I haven’t looked at it,” said Clarke when asked if he had given much consideration to the permutations. “It doesn’t concern me.
“The main objective was to be there. Pot two, pot three… it’s all speculation because you don’t know how the other games are going to pan out so we’ll go out and do our best to win the game and then we’ll decide after that whether we want to be in pot two or pot three.”
Asked how significant it would be to go to the tournament as a pot two team, Clarke said: “Not significant at all in my mind. I don’t think too much about it.
“I just want to win game to game and make sure we’re always competitive whoever we play. We were seeded in pot two in the draw for this campaign and we want to be a pot two team going into the World Cup campaign.
“If we can get to pot one, it would be great but that’s a long way away at the moment.”
Clarke’s main objective at present to is to stop a four-game run without a victory and ensure Scotland end a memorable campaign on a high at a sold-out Hampden.
“It’s always important to win,” he said. “We haven’t won for a while. We want to finish the campaign well in front of our own supporters at Hampden, so hopefully we can do that.”
That task will be made slightly easier – in theory – by the fact Norway and Manchester City superstar Erling Haaland misses the match due to an ankle injury sustained in Thursday’s friendly against Faroe Islands.
“It’s probably a little bit of mixed feelings,” Clarke said when asked about the striker’s absence. “I think for the crowd it would have been great to see a player of Erling Haaland’s standard at Hampden.
“It would have been good for the defenders to test themselves against a top striker but unfortunately he’s not fit.
“If you asked me that question me before a game that really meant something I’d probably be sitting here saying ‘yes, I’m delighted he’s not playing’ but for the game tomorrow, I think it would have been better if he played.”
Haaland gave Norway the lead with a penalty in the last meeting between the teams in Oslo in June before Scotland roared back with two goals in the closing minutes to claim arguably the most pivotal result in their qualifying campaign.
“It was a pretty dull game on a very hot, sunny afternoon,” recalled Clarke. “For us, it was about staying in the game as long as possible. Towards the end of the game I took a central defender off, went to a back four and stuck another attacking player on and thankfully it worked for us.
“We got the equaliser at a good time and almost immediately before Norway had a chance to realise what had happened we were 2-1 in front and for the section, for the qualification of Scotland, it was obviously a big moment in the tournament.”
Second-placed Scotland go into their final qualifier six points clear of third-placed Norway, who remain without a major tournament appearance since Euro 2000.
Clarke believes the fact his team were able to win their first five games, while Norway failed to win any of their first three was the main difference between the sides.
“The way the fixtures fell for us was good,” said the Scots boss. “We had three home fixtures to start and we managed to get maximum points from those fixtures.
“Going to Norway when we did and getting the 2-1 win put the qualification into our hands and fortunately we didn’t let it slip. Group football is a sprint, it’s only eight matches.
“You can’t really drop points early in the group because you put yourself under pressure later in the group. It’s normally Scotland that does that, to be fair!”