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Euro 2020: Scotland to host Israel in semi-final

Scotland players celebrate
The Scots will aim to see off Israel at Hampden

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 were 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 then finished third in Euro qualifying Group I, while Israel came fifth in Group G.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke
Steve Clarke: “This is the time to believe”

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 are ranked 33rd and played in last year’s World Cup.

Clarke described the prospect of facing Israel in March as “a hugely exciting challenge for us with a massive reward”.

“The players know Israel well having faced them in the Nations League,” he added. “It was a tough match over there but we showed our capabilities with a good win at Hampden last year.

“This is the time to believe. We have three wins in a row and the benefit of momentum. We want to be active participants at EURO 2020, not just hosts, and we will give our all in what I believe will be two games.”

Israel

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

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