Scotland claimed a place in the Euro 2020 qualifying playoff final on Thursday evening by beating Israel on penalties at Hampden Park.
Having spurned a handful of glorious chances throughout the clash, it took nerves of steel from the penalty spot for Steve Clarke’s men to progress. A fantastic save from David Marshall denied Eran Zahavi early on, with Kenny McLean going on to score the winning spot-kick.
Here are things we learned as the Tartan Army became potentially 90 minutes from booking their place at Euro 2020:
Scotland edge closer to Euro 2020
Having not qualified for a major competitive tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France, it goes without saying that the motivation to progress to Euro 2020 is extremely high for Scotland, especially with the talented squad that they have at their disposal. This has been considerably higher since the draw for the group stage was made, matching Scotland potentially with great rivals England, Czech Republic and Croatia.
Now presented with a winner-takes-all clash against Serbia, they really are tantalisingly close to booking their place at the tournament. As a matter of fact, it is the furthest that Scotland have gone in a qualifying campaign since reaching the playoffs for the 2004 World Cup.
Robertson delivery proves dangerous
As seen on the Premier League stage with 26 assists in all competitions over the past two seasons, Andrew Robertson has proven to be one of the most dangerous deliverers of a ball. On various occasions at Hampden Park, the left-back looked like the most likely to create an opening with a number of tempting deliveries both from set pieces and in open play.
A fantastic free-kick in the first-half from the defender whipped just wide of the base of the Israel post, whilst Scott McTominay really should have scored with a free-header from a corner supplied by the Liverpool man.
More chances came and went after the interval. A dangerous cross from Robertson, this time flicked on by Sheffield United man Oli McBurnie, fell to Ryan Jack but he couldn’t convert either. Declan Gallagher and Liam Cooper also failed to score from Robertson crosses, with the former nodding wide before the Leeds United man thumped his header off of the post with only seconds of regular time remaining.
Whilst the hosts frustratingly did not take advantage of those opportunities against Israel, on another day, they could come in particularly handy. Should they qualify for the proper tournament then once again, Robertson’s delivery could be a particularly potent weapon in an attacking sense.
Israel rue missed opportunities
Whilst Scotland progressed and created plenty of chances throughout the match, that does not mean Israel were out of it by a long shot. The visitors created opportunities of their own throughout the 120 minutes and possibly did enough to progress to the playoff final at the expense of the hosts but were not able to take any of them.
The best chance came late on in extra-time after Hatem Elhamed’s cross dropped into the Scotland penalty area, with Shon Weissman hunting but the Real Valladolid man just failed to get a touch on the ball. Should he just got a stud onto the ball then it surely would have been Israel instead of Scotland progressing to the final. It might just be that kind of luck or bad fortune, dependent on your allegiance, that costs or earns you a place at Euro 2020.
Scotland: Marshall (7); Cooper (7), Gallagher (6), McTominay (6); Robertson (8), McGregor (6), Jack (6) (Fraser (6), 84′), O’Donnell (7) (McLean (N/A), 113′); McGinn (7); Dykes (6) (Paterson (6), 90′), McBurnie (6) (Shankland (6), 73′).
Israel: Marciano (6); Elhamed (7), Yeini (6), Tibi (7), Bitton (7), Dasa (6); Soloman (7), Natkho (6) (Abu Fani (6), 69′), Golasa (6) (Elmkies (5), 101′); Zahavi (7), Dabour (7) (Weissman (6), 83′).
Referee: Ovidiu Hategan
Yellow Cards: Natkho (12′), Biton (55′), McGinn (58′), Weissman (88′), Fraser (105+2′), Paterson (119′)
Red Cards: N/A