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Scotland can’t play for a draw in Nations League decider – Callum McGregor

Scotland will go for qin against Ukraine says Callum McGregor (Steve Welsh/PA)
Scotland will go for qin against Ukraine says Callum McGregor (Steve Welsh/PA)

Callum McGregor insists it is “impossible” to set out for the draw Scotland require against Ukraine in Krakow on Tuesday to earn Nations League promotion.

The Scots’ 2-1 win over Republic of Ireland at Hampden Park on Saturday took Steve Clarke’s side two points clear of Ukraine at the top of Group B1 with one fixture remaining.

Irish skipper John Egan opened the scoring for the visitors after 18 minutes but Jack Hendry levelled with a header four minutes after the restart and Ryan Christie clinched the hard-fought but deserved victory with a late penalty.

Ryan Christie scores Scotland's winner
Ryan Christie scores Scotland’s winner (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A point will be enough for Scotland to move up to League A and it will also enhance qualification chances for the next European Championship.

However, Celtic captain McGregor believes the notion of playing for a point is fraught with danger.

He said: “Obviously we know a draw sees us through but we have to go there with the intent of trying to win the game and try to play the way we have been playing.

“The group are feeling good and we want to just continue that into Tuesday.

“It is impossible (to play for a draw). As soon as you have that mindset, it is very, very dangerous.

“We understand where we are in the group and what we need but ultimately we need to play with the intent to try and win the game.

“We understand what topping the group means for qualification moving forward.

“We know it is big game and now we have to recover well and focus on Tuesday.”

Scotland are a point away from Nations League promotion
Scotland are a point away from Nations League promotion (Andrew Milligan/PA)

McGregor believes the 3-0 win over Ukraine at Hampden Park last Wednesday can only benefit the Scots for the return leg in Poland.

The midfielder said: “Obviously we have seen them close up less than a week ago.

“It gives us a chance to watch the game back and see what we did well and what we did not so well.

“But obviously getting the win and winning 3-0 gives you a psychological boost to go over there and you know that if you play well and do the right things then you have a good chance of winning the game.”

However, although the Scots will travel with confidence, McGregor knows it took an “excellent” second-half display against the Irish – as it had against Ukraine last week – to turn the match in Scotland’s favour.

“We spoke at half-time about trusting the principles of the game that we wanted to implement,” he said.

“We never quite got it going in the first half. But we made a little tweak at half-time and we wanted to stay calm in the game.

“Obviously we were 1-0 down but knew if we got our flow going that we would get back in the game. We looked really fluid in the second half.”