Steve Clarke has urged Scotland to build on their Euro 2020 qualification by taking a big step towards the 2022 World Cup.
Victory over Israel in Netanya on Wednesday will secure top spot in Nations League Group B2 – and potentially one of two World Cup play-off places on offer for the finals in Qatar.
And the Hampden boss is keen to ensure his side continue to feed off the feel-good factor swirling round the country following last week’s win over Serbia, which ended the Tartan Army’s 22-year major tournament exile.
“This is another step on the road to the World Cup in Qatar 2022, which is where we want to be,” he said. “So from now on, really until April, the focus is on the World Cup. This game can give us a chance to be in a play-off for it as a back-up. We want to qualify as of right and we look forward to the draw for the World Cup qualifiers in December.
“We’ll be in pot three, which is a little bit of progress. We’ve gone from League C in the Nations League to League B – which is progress – and we’re one win away from the A league. So we want to keep progressing. In football you don’t want to stand still because everybody runs past you.
“Maybe that’s what happened over the last 20-odd years and we don’t want that to happen to us.”
Clarke’s team squeezed past the Israelis last month to tee up their play-off final with Serbia – and the boss is expecting another test on Wednesday night as the teams meet for the fifth time in two years.
He said: “All the games against Israel recently have been close. The last one obviously finished in a penalty shoot-out. The one before that finished 1-1 and before that there were one-goal wins for both countries, so we expect a tough night.
“I know everyone keeps knocking them down and saying they are not the strongest team in the group, but they are a good team with dangerous players.
“We’re not getting carried away. We don’t think we’re anywhere near the finished article. We have to keep improving. We’ve built a good squad and you can see the togetherness in the group, which is really important. The confidence is building but we lost our last game, so we need to win the next one and get ourselves moving again.”