• Gordon Sheach

Israel v Scotland Preview



Scotland’s new era of positivity is officially underway, kicked off with an exciting come-from-behind draw vs second seeds Austria on Thursday.


Matchday Two sees Steve Clarke’s side return to Israel, where they were beaten in the final Nations League game in November. A chance to set the record straight?


Let’s look ahead with the preview.


Nothing Gained / Nothing Lost


I appreciate people viewing the draw with Austria as a ‘bad’ result. Given their injury absences the game was there to be won, and part of being a successful side is holding ourselves to a high standard.


We’ve written before about the scale of the challenge to qualify for a World Cup. Every point counts.


From my perspective, while a win would have been wonderful, a loss to our closest rivals for the Playoff spot one day one could have been crippling and threatened to cast doubt on the progress made.


Taking points from the teams seeded above you has to be considered a ‘good’ result. On the flip-side, dropping points to teams below you are without doubt ‘bad’ results, making Sunday’s game in Israel so important.


Win there, and the one point gained on Thursday looks valuable. Lose and it will look very lonely.


Mentality Matters


I tweeted about Jack Hendry’s pre-match press conference, very impressed with how he spoke about himself – full of positive terminology, extolling his growth in Belgium, his confidence and the strengths in his game.


I absolutely love to hear our players speaking in these terms. This is so far beyond the empty words of the past – “we’re going to do our best to win the game” etc. Hendry was telling us how we would win and why we should be confident.


After our article aiming to exorcise ‘Glorious Failure’ from our footballing lexicon – I adore hearing our players speak with confidence and belief in their own abilities.


This was followed up in Scott McTominay’s post-match interview. He spoke of the team having the belief to “go to Israel and dominate them” with such force that I’ve made a mental note never to argue with the man.

Our friends at Alba_Matter were also suitably impressed with the ‘growth mindset’ on show within this Scotland team that he wrote about it after the game. Rather than provide a re-hash or inferior counterfeit – I’d implore you to go and read his piece (then come back and finish this one!)


Watching McTominay’s post-match interview you certainly feel like the squad will travel to Israel with the positive mentality that coming from behind twice can bring.


World Cup Revenge Tour


Before the World Cup Qualifying draw I wrote about my desire to be drawn into a ‘World Cup Revenge Tour’ group. There is no better way to demonstrate a break with the past than returning to scenes of past heartbreak and laying the ghosts to rest.

And what better place to start than Israel…


The Opponents


Get the full lowdown on Israel’s squad and their strengths in Episode 2 of The Tartan Scarf Podcast.


I spoke to Yossi Medina, a sports journalist based in Israel who works for BabaGol.

Learn why in Israel they called this group “the group of nightmares” when it was drawn!

Record v Israel


Played 8, Won 5, Drawn 1, Lost 2

Up to 2018 we’d only played Israel three times, we’re now on a run of seven games in four years!


All of those games since 2018 have been decided by one goal, with the most recent game coming in a 1-0 loss for Scotland in Netanya in the final Nations League game in 2020.


Predicted 11


Knowing the third game in the break is a more relatively straightforward home tie with the Faroe Islands I’d fully expect Clarke to keep changes to a minimum.


One change I’d expect to see would be the calming presence of Callum McGregor return to Scotland’s midfield engine room. The game against Austria often felt quite open in the middle of the park.


McGregor’s return would allow McGinn to push higher, something he did to devastating effect against Austria, snatching the equaliser with a remarkable overhead kick – potentially at the expense of Armstrong who perhaps didn’t make the most of the opportunity from the start on Thursday.

Ché Adams didn’t get long to impress from the bench on Thursday and may need to wait until the Faores on Wednesday for his first start.


If Clarke is feeling bold he could partner Adams and Dykes up front – given the pressing Scotland did high up the field on Thursday I believe that would certainly suit Adams’ style.


Prediction


We can all debate about whether the 2-2 draw with Austria was a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ result – there is no debate here. If Scotland are to have pretensions of qualifying for the World Cup, games against teams seeded below us must return three points. Non-negotiable.

This Scotland team travel with confidence and a growing steely determination. It’s time to put those words into practice.


Predicted Score – Israel 1-2 Scotland