• Gordon Sheach

The Euro 2020 Playoff Preview

After months of evolving permutations and predictions, Scotland’s Euro 2020 Playoff destiny was confirmed this morning in Nyon, Switzerland.

While it was pre-determined that Scotland face a date with destiny in a Playoff Final (should they make it) against the winner of Norway or Serbia, it is now known that Scotland will play Israel at Hampden on 26 March 2020 in the Semi Final.

Arguably of more critical importance than that, it was decided today by random draw that should Scotland qualify for the Playoff Final on 31 March 2020, the game will be played away from home.

With these confirmations, let’s take a closer look at Scotland’s Playoff fate…



Thursday 26 March 2020, Euro 2020 Playoff Semi Final

Scotland v Israel Hampden Park, Glasgow

By virtue of being the highest ranked team in League C, Scotland were guaranteed to host their Playoff Semi Final. A capacity crowd at Hampden could make a huge difference to Scotland’s chances of qualifying.

Let’s take a closer look at the recent form of our opponents, Israel.

Israel

FIFA Rank: 89th Record in Qualifying: Finished 5th in Group G, winning 3 of their 10 games (once v Austria and twice v Latvia) Form this season: 1W, 1D, 4L (one win in the last 4 games). Last Meeting with Scotland: Scotland 3-2 Israel (2018) – The helter-skelter Nations League game that saw James Forrest score a hat-trick, Allan McGregor save Scotland at the death and this Nations League Playoff place secured.

Scotland’s record v Israel: 4W, 0D, 1L – 80% wins.

Danger Men: A few recognisable faces for fans in Scotland including Hibs keeper Ofir Marciano and Elhamed & Bitton from Celtic. Sevilla’s Moanes Dabour will be the man to watch up front.

Without wanting to tempt fate, should Scotland negotiate their Playoff Semi Final they will face the winner of the other Semi Final between Norway & Serbia in an away game.

Let’s take a quick look at the other side of the draw and how that Playoff Final could shape up.

Tuesday 31 March 2020 Euro 2020 Playoff Semi Final

Norway / Serbia v Scotland

Norway

FIFA Rank: 45th Record in Qualifying: 3rd in Group F – 4 wins, 5 draws and 1 loss (on opening day v Spain). Form this season: Unbeaten in 9 (4W, 5D). This season they have 3 wins and 3 draws including a home draw v Spain. Last Meeting with Scotland: Norway 0-1 Scotland (2013) – A friendly in which Scott Brown scored the winning goal. Before that came the forgettable 0-4 loss in Norway suffered by George Burley’s side.

Scotland’s record v Norway: 9W, 6D, 3L – 50% win %

Danger Men: Unfortunately for Scotland, Norway appear to be developing something of a golden generation. RB Salzburg’s 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Håland (son of Alf-Inge Håland) stands out as the one to watch.

He is enjoying an incredible breakthrough season on the world stage and to date has 26 goals and 6 assists in 18 games (goal/assist every 39 minutes). He has 7 goals in 4 Champions League games and has taken home 5 match balls for hat-tricks already this season.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid wonderkid Martin Ødegaard has blossomed on loan at Real Sociedad and will be a threat.

Serbia

FIFA Rank: 33rd Record in Qualifying: 3rd in Group B, 3pts behind reigning Euro Champions Portugal. They took draws in qualifying with Ukraine and Portugal who finished ahead of them. Form this season: 4W, 1D, 1L (v Portugal). They are unbeaten in their last 5. Last Meeting with Scotland: Serbia 2-0 Scotland (2013) in Gordon Strachan’s second game in charge. The Tartan Army helped clear snow off the pitch to help the game go-ahead. They may have wished they hadn't...

Scotland’s record v Serbia: 0W, 1D, 1L – 0% win %

Danger Men: Followers of English football will find many recognisable faces in Serbia’s ranks including Dušan Tadić (formerly Southampton), Luka Milivojević (Crystal Palace’s penalty king) & Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrović who has 34 goals in 55 caps.

Elsewhere, Sergej Milinković-Savić from Lazio is very highly rated in European football.


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