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 By PA Sport

Gordon Strachan: Scotland can still qualify despite defeat in Slovakia

Gordon Strachan still believes Scotland can finish second in their 2018 World Cup qualifying group despite losing 3-0 in Slovakia.

The Scots had dropped two points in the 1-1 draw with Lithuania at Hampden Park on Saturday but had started confidently in Trnava.

However, it all went wrong for the visitors after Robert Mak opened the scoring in the 18th minute although Scotland striker Steven Fletcher had been clearly fouled at the other end seconds earlier.

A second from Mak after the break followed by an Adam Nemec header left the visitors well beaten and with only four points from nine.

Scotland dropped to fourth place in Group F with a trip to face leaders England, who moved on to seven points following a 0-0 draw in Slovenia, at Wembley next month.

Asked if finishing second was realistic, Strachan said "Yes. Your form can change. It's a long period, it is over a year. It is amazing how form can change in two weeks.

"It is amazing how you can go from not doing so well at things you are talking about [scoring and defending] to doing very well a couple of weeks later.

"Form can change, players can come through, things can happen for you, there is no doubt about that.''

When asked if he could still take the team forward, Strachan straight-batted the question.

He said: "At this moment in time the people who I feel sorry for are the players, they put so much work into it the last couple of games with little reward.

"They are the ones I am feeling sorry for, thinking 'how do we protect them and send them back to their clubs feeling good about themselves?' They can't go back to their clubs thinking they could have tried any more.

"They could have passed the ball better on certain occasions, made a couple of decisions, but as a group I am really proud of them.

"The second group you feel sorry for are the supporters that came here tonight. You do feel for them, that is what we are thinking about just now, I am not here thinking about myself.

"I am thinking about these lads and how in the future we give supporters, which we have done on a couple of occasions -- something to sing and dance about away from home -- that is the most important thing at the moment."

Scotland could not find a way to get around Slovakia on Tuesday.
Scotland were denied in Slovakia, suffering a 3-0 defeat on Tuesday.

Strachan insists he will be going to Wembley looking for a victory.

The former Celtic boss said: "It is another opportunity to get three points. We would like to be better off, we are one point off play-off place, something like that.

"As I said before, it is a crazy group but the priority is to get on the plane and send these guys away... it is not easy for them. They come away feeling good about themselves and you are trying your best to send them back that way.

"I keep repeating, these guys don't get paid for this, they come along here because they want to be here. We try our best to send them back mentally sound but when you get body blows like that it can be very hard.

"I was pleased with a lot in the first-half, thinking 'I like this', and then the decision goes against us and at that point I thought it is not fair against these guys that are working so hard. They didn't let it affect them, still brave on the ball, still trying to make chances.

"At half-time the thing was just to keep going, use the (foul on Fletcher by defender Jan Durica being ignored by referee Martin Strombergsson) decision as a power, anger, whatever you want to call it, not to be emotional but to use it to your best.

"I didn't see the second goal but when it came, they went from being a bit laborious to being strong and it was uphill."

Slovakia won their first points and scored their first goals of the campaign and boss Jan Kozak said: "I expected a great battle and I was proved right. We were calmer after first goal, we scored three goals so we are happy with that.

"We knew we needed to win tonight but we will now take it step by step and game by game and we will see how it turns out in the end."

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