The Scottish National Team hasn’t been able to qualify for a major tournament for 22 years, with their last big stage showing being the 1998 World Cup. Now, though, Scotland has a golden opportunity to qualify for the 2020 Euros.
Since 2017, Scotland have won 12, drawn two, and lost six competitive matches, with the team under Steve Clarke winning four and losing four. The only losses under Clarke have come at the hands of Belgium and Russia. During his still-young tenure, Greg Taylor, Ryan Christie, Michael Devlin, Ryan Jack, and Eamonn Brophy have all made their debuts.
Next on the fixtures list is the must-win game against Israel, for which Clarke has requested that the Scottish Premier Football League helps as best as they can.
Taking on Israel to have a shot at Euro 2020
On 26 March, Scotland will welcome Israel to Hampden Park for the first game of the Euro 2020 Qualifying. The draw has certainly fallen in Scotland’s favour as, when the teams met in the Nations League group stage, the home team won in their respective legs.
Although not the manager at the time, Clarke hopes that his players can channel the experience of them winning 3-2 at home in November 2018. Both of those games were incredibly closely contested, and even though Scotland sit a good 36 places above Israel in the FIFA World Rankings, it’s tough to split the teams.
On paper, the Israel match couldn’t be closer, but given their recent run of wins, and the fact that it’s at home, Scotland is just ahead as the favourite in the football betting at 4/5 to progress to the decisive phase. With Israel out at 7/2, it’s clear that people are trusting in Clarke to pull through.
However, the fixtures come thick and fast for the team. If Scotland beat Israel, they’ll then have to face either Norway or Serbia in the decisive game for Euro 2020 Qualification.
A shift in SPFL schedule could help a lot
As it stands, the SPFL is to play on 21 March, with the potential of a couple of games taking place on the 22 March. Both Celtic and Rangers are still competing in Europe, and if they win their ties, they could be playing on 12 March and 19 March in the Round of 16, pushing their SPFL games back to Sunday.
In order to get extra time for preparations, Clarke has asked the Premiership to have a “common sense” approach and move the Saturday fixtures to the Friday, if not postpone the slate of games. He’s gained plenty of support from league managers, including Derek McInnes and Steven Gerrard.
The Scottish national team featured 12 players from the Premiership, of which five were from the Old Firm clubs. Should the fixtures not be shifted back or postponed and Rangers and Celtic make it to the next stage of the Europa League, the likes of Greg Taylor, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie, Ryan Jack, and James Forrest would only have three days to prepare for the huge match against Israel.
It’s very likely that a decision to shift the fixtures won’t be decided until the after the Rangers vs Braga and Copenhagen vs Celtic ties have concluded (27 February). If the SPFL giants are no longer competing in Europe, it would make sense for the league to move its fixtures to help the national team succeed.
There’s a lot of support from within the league to shift its games to help the Scottish national team. With it being such a close game, Scotland could do with all of the help that they can get against Israel and potentially against Serbia or Norway.