After what will have been a 10-month hiatus, the Scottish men’s football team will be back in action on 4th September. It seems like an age since Steve Clarke’s men trudged off the pitch at Hampden Park after grinding out a 3-1 win over Kazakhstan last November. Just 20,000 fans made the trip to watch Scotland last time around, although it was a particularly cold night in Glasgow. With that result, Scotland clinched 3rd place in Group I – a considerable distance behind Belgium and Russia – but it was enough to secure a Playoff Spot.
Yes, Scotland might be rank outsiders in the Euro 2021 betting, but they at least have a fighting chance of making it to next year’s rescheduled tournament, and the first hurdle is a game against Israel on 8th October. UEFA is terming these games Semi Finals, with Norway and Serbia meeting in the other Semi Final of Pathway C to Euro 2021 qualification. If Scotland were to win against Israel, they would go on to meet either Serbia or Norway in the Final on 12th November.
Israel represent familiar opposition
Israel represent tricky opponents for Scotland. They beat Scotland in Haifa back in 2018, although Scotland did win the other game of that UEFA Nations League campaign. The good news is that the playoff game against Israel is at Hampden Park in October. While the national stadium hasn’t exactly been a fortress for Scotland in recent years, it should still offer some comfort and confidence to players.
Indeed, Israel will represent familiar foes for Scotland by the time October rolls around. As luck would have it, Israel have been drawn in Scotland’s Nations League group this year, and they are the opponents for the Scots as international football starts again on 4th September. It sure is going to be intriguing to see how Steve Clarke approaches the fixture. Does he attempt to play his best team, thereby giving Israel boss Willibald Ruttensteiner some insight into his tactics for the Playoff? Or does he play his best side in an attempt to build some momentum for the game in October?
A busy November looms
Scotland also have Nations League fixtures against Czechia (7th September) and Slovakia (11th October) sandwich the Playoff game against Israel. Clarke will probably be happy with the calibre of those opponents as it is not far off the level of opposition Scotland would face should they reach the Final of the Playoffs against Norway or Serbia. If Scotland do go on to the Final, the match would be played in either Oslo or Belgrade depending upon the opponent.
Facing Serbia or Norway in their capital cities would represent a tough ask for Scotland, who have not enjoyed the best of times away from home over the last few years. Games will likely be played without fans in attendance, however, so that might temper any hostile atmosphere.
At the moment, Scotland have two Nations League fixtures pencilled in for November – Slovakia (15th November) and Israel (18th November). That will mean three games in seven days should Scotland make that crucial Playoff on 12th November. Club managers are sure to grumble at that prospect, especially if any players pick up injuries.
Scotland’s Autumn 2020 Fixtures:
Israel (H) – Friday 4th September, UNL
Czechia (A) – Monday 7th September, UNL
Israel (H) – Thursday 8th October, Euro 2021 Playoff
Slovakia (H) – Sunday 11th October, UNL
TBC* – (A) – Thursday 12th November Possible Euro 2021 Playoff Final
Slovakia (A) – Sunday 15th November, UNL
Israel (A) – Wednesday 18th November, UNL