Scotland aim to qualify for their first major global competition in 23 years in midweek as they face an Israel side who struggled heavily in their own Euro 2020 qualifying campaign. Can the Scots’ reign supreme in this one-legged playoff? Will Lancaster previews this fixture, alongside giving his betting tips for Thursday evening’s clash.
Who is playing?
Scotland vs Israel
What competition is it?
UEFA Euro 2020 Qualification Play-Offs
What time is Scotland vs Israel?
19:45 GMT, Thursday 8th October 2020
Which stadium is hosting Scotland vs Israel?
Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland
What channel is Scotland vs Israel on?
Sky Sports Main Event
Scotland vs Israel Summary
Many footballing nations end up with ‘heartbreak’ at the climax of every single qualification campaign. For minnows such as San Marino and Andorra, this is almost an inevitability – they’d count themselves as lucky to even gain a point. However, for Scotland, the Tartan Army faithful would most definitely label their failures as a national hoodoo.
You’d have to go back 16 years before Scotland merely qualified for a Euro’s playoff tie, with 24 years being the marker for the last time they qualified for the primary competition altogether (in which a certain Paul Gascoigne goal stunned them). However, after finishing their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign strongly and obtaining a play-off spot, the Hampden Park outfit will now look to seize their best opportunity of the 21st century with both hands.
Israel, however, will prove a stern test for Scotland. Only becoming a UEFA member in 1994 after a 20 year expulsion from the Asian Football Confederation, Israel have never qualified for the main body of the competition and will see this as their biggest chance since their Euro 2000 qualifying campaign, in which they too qualified for the play-offs; although an 8-0 aggregate defeat to Denmark followed.
Scotland Team News and Form
The Tartan Army haven’t faired too badly in recent games; they’re unbeaten in their last 5, including a hard-fought 2-1 victory away at the Czech Republic – ending the Czech’s two-year unbeaten home run in competitive fixtures – which included a victory over England. After collecting a solid 15 points from 30 in their qualification group, the Scots have shown what they are capable of – furthermore; they have had just under a year to prepare for this game, and will look to end the hoodoo with aplomb against a weaker outfit.
However, before this they went on a torrid run of four straight losses and just one goal, and so they will need to show signs of continuity of form against the Israelis on Thursday.
Steve Clarke has an almost full strength squad to choose from. Key players Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney, John McGinn and Scott McTominay – who all start for major clubs in the English Premier League – are all up for selection, whilst they also include SPL stars Callum McGregor and Ryan Jack. The only major absentee is Celtic’s James Forrest.
Israel Team News and Form
Israel performed well under-par in their qualification group, finishing on just 11 points from a possible 30; which ranked them below minnows Macedonia and Slovenia. However, despite their torrid campaign, they have players with definite quality in their squad who can drag them to the promised land of the major competition. And with just two games needed to achieve that, anything is possible.
Their key man is Eran Zahavi; who has spent his last four years in the Chinese Super League. Zahavi was a key figure for his side Ghangzou, scoring a goal in almost every league game with 91 goals in 106 appearances, breaking the record for most goals scored in a Chinese League season and earning the league’s MVP in 2017. Despite being a ‘veteran’ in terms of footballing ages, the 33-year-old caught the eye of Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, who signed him in late September.
Other players to watch are Mu’nas Dabbur, who excelled in a youthful Red Bull Salzburg side and now plies his trade at Hoffenheim, whilst Hatem Abd Elhamed and Ofir Marciano play their trade in Scotland at Celtic and Hibernian, respectively.
Scotland Last Five Matches (All Competitions)
- Czech Republic (A) 2-1 win, Nations League
- Israel (H) 1-1 draw, Nations League
- Kazakhstan (H) 3-1 win, UEFA EURO Qualifiers
- Cyprus (A), 2-1 win, UEFA EURO Qualifiers
- San Marino (H), 6-0 win, UEFA EURO Qualifiers
Israel Last Five Matches (All Competitions)
- Slovakia (H), 1-1 draw, Nations League
- Scotland (A), 1-1 draw, Nations League
- North Macedonia (A), 0-1 loss, UEFA EURO Qualifiers
- Poland (H), 1-2 loss, UEFA EURO Qualifiers
- Latvia (H), 3-1 win, UEFA EURO Qualifiers
Scotland Top Scorers
John McGinn (7 International Goals) – Rather surprisingly, the man at the heart of Aston Villa’s engine room is the top scorer of the current squad. The former ‘Hibee’s’ midfielder has a knack of scoring important goals; single-handedly dragging Scotland to victory against Cyprus and Kazakhstan to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Andrew Robertson (3 International Goals) – As Scotland’s most valuable asset, the Tartan Army will hope that Robertson can make a difference when it matters. The Glaswegian captain has 3 international goals for his national side and his wealth of experience on continental stage for Liverpool could prove invaluable to his team-mates.
Israel Top Scorers
Eran Zahavi (20 International Goals) – The Israeli’s will look to their key man for a moment of magic to catapult his team into the next round. After scoring against Scotland in the two sides’ last meeting, he will hope history repeats itself on Thursday.
Mu’nas Dabbur (7 International Goals) – After a good start to his Bundesliga career with Hoffenheim, the former Sevilla striker will be looking to continue his good post-lockdown form by nabbing a goal against the Scots.
Will’s Betting Tips
With the main contingent of Scotland’s side having played in the notoriously relentless English Premier League over the past few weeks, they will already be at the peak of their fitness. This, coupled with their substantial form and the poor form of the Israel side, means that I have Scotland to edge this one. Scotland to win in 90 mins is Evens* with Mark Jarvis.
As mentioned before, the better players in the Scotland side will be a lot sharper than the Israel players. They’ll come out of the blocks early, and with this intense tempo, I back Scotland to be vivacious in the first half. Scotland First Half Result is 13/8* with Mark Jarvis.
Israel haven’t conceded a lot of goals in their last five games and will try to be compact at the back away from home. This will lead to the ball hardly being worked into the 6-yard box, and a lot more long-range efforts being taken instead.
With Ryan Christie likely to take set pieces and play in the creative hole, he will very much be the vocal point of this Scotland side. Ryan Christie to score anytime and Scotland to win is 10/3* with Mark Jarvis.
*Odds as of time of writing (Tuesday 6th October 2020) and subject to change
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