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Charlie Christie – Hope sold out Hampden will inspire Scotland against Israel

By Will Clark

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It was great this week to learn that Hampden Park is sold out for our vital World Cup Qualifier against Israel tomorrow.

Scotland play Israel on Saturday night.
Scotland play Israel on Saturday night.

In recent qualifying campaigns this hasn’t always been the case, but last month’s superb result in Austria has certainly whetted the appetite of the Tartan Army and given us an excellent chance to cement that vital second place spot.

Recent history has shown us that the match will be a tight affair as, in our six meetings with Israel since October 2018, spoils have been even with two draws, two defeats and two wins – testament to how evenly matched the sides have been.

There is little doubt that Israel’s main threat will come from their front players, and in particular, PSV Eindhoven forward Eran Zahavi.

The experienced 34-year-old is top scorer in Group F and his six goals so far have included a hat trick against the Faroe Islands and two in their recent home win over Austria.

Mu’nas Dabbur will probably partner Zahavi in a 3-5-2 formation and is another experienced player who we will have to be wary of.

Limiting opportunities to these two players will be key to our chances of success.

We must ensure that we force the Israeli wide players to play as much of the match in their own half as possible thus limiting their options going forward as Denmark did so well when comprehensively defeating Israel in Copenhagen in September.

Both the Israeli wing backs are more at ease going forward rather than backwards and it will be important to us that we test them defensively at every opportunity.

Steve Clarke’s squad have shown in recent times that, on our day, we can be a match for anyone, and we have undoubted quality throughout our squad. That quality, allied to a vocal home support, can certainly get us the three points and set us up for the following midweek trip to the Faroe Islands.

I expect a challenging encounter where the opening goal could be vital to how the game develops, we are far more comfortable defending a lead than having to chase the game.

It is likely that 17 to 18 points will almost certainly achieve second place and qualify as one of the seeded runner-up teams for the play-off games in March next year .

This time we have given ourselves a real opportunity.

But nobody should underestimate the challenge Israel will pose.

They have players playing at the top level throughout Europe and only runaway group leaders Denmark have been able to defeat head coach Willi Ruttensteiner’s side in the group so far.

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