THE pathway to the playoff opened up big time for Scotland last month with that signature away result in Vienna. Six points from the October double header against Israel and Faroe Islands would all but secure the second spot in Group Six that gives us that second opportunity to reach next year’s World Cup Finals in Qatar.
It sounds straightforward, but this is Scotland, it’s never straightforward with us, and these are fixtures that are notoriously difficult for us. Despite playing Israel six times in the past three years, we have only secured one victory in 90 minutes, the 3-2 win in November 2018 that secured the Nations League playoff for Euro 2020. Steve Clarke has yet to win in 90 minutes against the Israelis (the Nations League playoff Semi Final was, of course, achieved on penalties) so he’ll be hoping that his luck in this fixture will change.
Faroe Islands away immediately sends shivers down our spines from an embarrassing draw in 1999 when Matt Elliott was sent off, to being two down at half time in Berti Vogts first competitive game before Paul Lambert and Barry Ferguson spared our blushes by rescuing a point. They are also an improving side and even free-scoring Denmark struggled in Toftir, required an 85th minute winner to secure victory.
But history also suggests it’s not all doom and gloom and that there’s good reason to be optimistic about collecting the six points that would all but guarantee second spot before the final matches in Moldova and at home to Denmark.
Here’s our look back at previous matches that heighten that optimism.
28/04/1981: Scotland 3-1 Israel
Sure, Israel have become a pain in the backside to our Nations League campaigns in recent years, but the last time we faced them in World Cup qualification at Hampden was more pleasing.
Double-European Cup winning winger John Robertson was fouled in the box for a penalty, which he then expertly converted to give Scotland the lead. Less than ten minutes later, he converted a second penalty to double the advantage.
Early into the second half, and a good passing move resulted in the ball being passed to the other wing wizard Davie Provan, who’s low shot was nestled nicely into the right hand corner to put the game beyond doubt.
Israel did pull a goal back a few minutes later when Moshe Sinai lashed home a rebound, but Jock Stein’s men ran out comfortable winners en route to the Spain ’82 Finals.
06/06/2007: Faroe Islands 0-2 Scotland
Five years on from the scare of a double from a PE teacher that threatened worldwide humiliation to Scotland, the class of 2007 returned to the scene of the crime, this time under Alex McLeish.
In a memorable Euro 2008 qualifying adventure, it was a more professional and efficient display compared to the chaos of 2002. Shaun Maloney’s brilliant free kick midway through the first half gave the Scots the lead, and a first international goal for Maloney in the process.
It wasn’t long before the visitors doubled their advantage when Darren Fletcher’s cross was met by an unmarked Garry O’Connor. His header was parried back into his path by goalkeeper Mikelsen, this time he made no mistake by slotting home the rebound.
Scotland saw through an uneventful second half to claim victory that kept them in the hunt in a campaign that so very nearly saw them topple the 2006 World Cup Finalists Italy and France.