This is Scotland’s biggest football match since they faced Poland in October 2015 in Euro 2016 qualifier and they could hardly be better prepared for it. They’ve have faced Israel on three occasions in the Nations League since September 2018, and past evidence indicates that this is going to be an extremely tight affair on Thursday night.
Scotland have won one, drawn one, and lost one in their previous three meetings with Israel, scoring five and conceding five, which points to a nervy 90 minutes for Steve Clarke’s side.
Thursday October 8, 7.45pm
Sky Sports Main Event
The absence of fans may hamper Scotland’s chances here – Hampden Park would be absolutely rocking on a night like this in normal times, and Scotland have essentially forfeited home advantage.
Having said that, they still have the quality to overcome a stern Israeli challenge and move a step closer to their first international tournament since 1998. With a whole host of established Premier League players to call on – including Kieran Tierney, Andrew Robertson, Scott McTominay and John McGinn – Scotland have the necessary quality to get over this banana skin.
Neither Scotland nor Israel have covered themselves in glory in recent matches.
Clarke’s side embarrassingly failed to keep a clean sheet against a second-rate Czech Republic squad called up at the last minute after the entire first squad became stranded due to COVID-19.
Aside from two games against San Marino during Euro 2020 qualifiers last year, Scotland have failed to keep a clean sheet since November 2018 and they conceded a whopping 19 goals in ten games during last year’s European qualifiers.
Israel have hardly fared any better, keeping one clean sheet – against Latvia last March – since November 2018. They conceded 18 goals in 10 games during an underwhelming European qualifying campaign and the chances of them suddenly becoming miserly at the back are slim. Both sides will get chances on Thursday. It is just a matter of who takes them.
It is up front, perhaps, where Scotland look the lightest. They lack a proven goalscorer and the likes of Lyndon Dykes and Oli McBurnie simply can’t be relied upon to come up with the goods on a regular basis. They are often forced to look elsewhere for goals with Celtic’s Ryan Christie picking up the slack in their two Nations League games last month.
However, Christie’s withdrawal from the squad means that Scotland have even less options in front of goal than usual and Aston Villa’s John McGinn may be a good bet.
McGinn was Scotland’s most prolific player by far in last year’s qualifiers, scoring seven goals in eight games; no other Scottish player scored more than once in the campaign.
He plays typically plays in a more advanced role with Scotland and could be the man to propel Steve Clarke’s side to a play-off final with Norway or Serbia. All things considered, he is great value to find the back of the net on Thursday.
- AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS STORY TIPPED RYAN CHRISTIE TO BE SCOTLAND’S FIRST GOALSCORER. THIS STORY WAS PUBLISHED BEFORE HE WAS RULED OUT OF THE MATCH DUE TO COVID-19 ISOLATION RULES.
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