Euro 2020: Scotland to host Israel in semi-final


Scotland will face Israel in their one-off Euro 2020 play-off semi-final at Hampden on 26 March.

And if Steve Clarke’s side progress, they will be away to Norway or Serbia for a finals place five days later.

Northern Ireland will host Republic of Ireland in Belfast if both sides win their respective semi-finals at Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovakia.

Israel was one of four ‘Path C’ teams, alongside Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, Scotland could have drawn.

Scotland earned their play-off place by winning Nations League Group C1, with Israel second.

Northern and Republic of Ireland already knew their opponents, with Friday’s draw deciding the host for each final.

Scotland, then managed by Alex McLeish, lost 2-1 away to Israel in October 2018 before beating them 3-2 at Hampden the following month to top the group.

The Scots, bidding to reach their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, then finished third in Euro 2020 qualifying Group I, while Israel came fifth in Group G.

Scotland’s experience of playing Israel will help, according to head coach Steve Clarke

Scotland’s experience of playing Israel will help, according to head coach Steve Clarke

Clarke’s side, 53rd in the FIFA world rankings, sit 36 places higher than Israel and the semi-final will hold few fears against a side that lost their last four away Euro qualifiers.

However, the potential trip to face Norway or Serbia is a daunting prospect. Norway haven’t suffered a home defeat in more than three years while Serbia is ranked 33rd and played in last year’s World Cup.

“The good thing about playing Israel is that, although I wasn’t the manger, a lot of the players played against Israel in the Nations League and will have a good understanding of what to expect,” Clarke said.

“I’m sure we’ll go in as favourites because we have home advantage. The crowd at Hampden can be a big plus for us, I’m sure the stadium will be full and it’s up to us to perform.

“The most important thing is we are a host nation and don’t want to be standing on the sidelines watching someone else enjoying themselves in Glasgow.”

How did their qualifying group go?

Off the back of losing out to Scotland in their Nations League group, Israel started with a draw with Slovenia and wins over Austria and Latvia. However, things quickly fell apart after that. In their next seven qualifiers, Andi Herzog’s side won just one – a 3-1 home win over bottom-placed Latvia – and lost five.

Despite starting off in pot three side, Israel finished fifth behind Poland, Austria, North Macedonia and Slovenia – winning just one win from eight games against the four sides. There hasn’t been a huge amount of evidence to suggest they’ve improved at all since losing 3-2 at Hampden a year ago.

Key player – Eran Zahavi

Guangzhou striker Eran Zahavi was a key player for this faltering Israeli side, scoring 11 goals in 10 qualifying games. The 32-year-old netted four of those against Austria, two against Slovenia and one against North Macedonia. He also claimed a goal and an assist at Hampden in the last meeting with Scotland.


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