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John McGinn delighted with Scotland response after ‘huge dent’ to confidence

John McGinn scored Scotland’s opener against Ukraine (Steve Welsh/PA)
John McGinn scored Scotland’s opener against Ukraine (Steve Welsh/PA)

Scotland midfielder John McGinn admits their summer defeats put a “huge dent” in their confidence.

The Aston Villa captain therefore feels Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Ukraine can provide a “priceless” morale boost as they bid to continue the progress made under Steve Clarke in recent years.

Scotland turned the tables on Ukraine following the World Cup play-off semi-final at Hampden in June by producing an equally dominant performance as their visitors had achieved.

Clarke introduced a change of formation for Wednesday’s Nations League game and his players delivered in emphatic fashion.

They will now look to reverse the 3-0 defeat against the Republic of Ireland which came days after their Qatar hopes ended.

McGinn, who opened the scoring, told the PA news agency: “The summer really hurt us. It damaged us as a group, especially with the progress we were making. It was a huge dent in our confidence, it certainly was.

“Once we got together, the manager set a few things straight. We knew where we had to improve.

“For us as a group, the belief and confidence that Wednesday night has given us has been huge and it’s certainly priceless moving forward for us.”

Scotland now top Group B1 and draws in each of their final two games, against Stephen Kenny’s side and then Ukraine in Krakow, would be enough to seal promotion to the elite level as well as a place among the second seeds for next month’s Euro 2024 qualifying draw.

“It’s been our ambition and I think it’s a realistic one,” McGinn said. “We obviously have two really tough games coming up and it’s so important not to fling away what we have built these last few years.

“But it’s our job to not only give ourselves the best opportunity to qualify for major tournaments but to give the generations moving forward the best opportunity to get Scotland into regular major competitions.

“That is our aim and if we can do that it will be a huge achievement for us and give us the best chance of getting into pot two for the draw.”

Scotland will have to go again quickly while their opponents have had a free midweek to prepare for the Hampden clash.

But McGinn said: “It’s much easier after a win. The turnaround is quick but all the boys are playing at a high level. We are playing games every three or four days so it’s one we are used to.

“It doesn’t make it any easier at times but it is one we are used to. The older you get, the more you focus on the recovery, getting the experience in, getting recovered and going again.

“I don’t think we will need any motivation for Saturday night, a game against Ireland at quarter to eight under the lights. The adrenaline, if anything, will push us through any sort of tiredness.”

McGinn was speaking after he and fellow Scotland international Nicola Docherty took part in a Fun Football training session for primary school children from Granton in Edinburgh at the Oriam National Performance Centre.

“It’s a really good initiative from McDonald’s, the Fun Football,” McGinn said. “They are going to have a million kids over the next four years playing free football. We all know how difficult times are at the minute, finances are hard for everyone at the minute.

“It’s great for me and Nicola to come and try and give something back and help promote what is a brilliant thing.”