UEFA Nations League
Scotland v Israel
Tuesday, 20 November, kick-off 7.45pm
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Scotland go into tonight’s final UEFA Nations League match against Israel knowing that their fate lies very much within their own control, following Saturday night’s resounding 4-0 victory over Albania in Shkodër.
With a playoff place for UEFA Euro 2020 on the line, the stakes are high as both nations look to take another step towards ending a lengthy drought since their last appearance at a major tournament.
Both teams currently find themselves tied on six points at the top of the group, making tonight’s fixture the epitome of a winner-takes-all encounter.
Here’s a breakdown of what each result would mean for Scotland’s hopes of qualification.
Victory for Alex McLeish’s men this evening would see them qualify for a first playoff since 2003, when a famous James McFadden strike wasn’t enough to see Scotland past the Netherlands on the road to UEFA Euro 2004.
Three points for Scotland would also secure promotion to League B in the next iteration of the UEFA Nations League, where a host of Europe’s best teams are potential opponents for McLeish’s side when the draw is made.
If Scotland were to lose tonight, they would finish as runner-up in group C1, with Albania having consigned to third place by defeat to Alex McLeish’s side on Saturday.
The result would also mean Scotland would miss out on the playoffs for UEFA Euro 2020, unless one of the other Group C winners qualify via the traditional group qualifiers, in which case Scotland would take their place in the play-offs if they were the next best placed team to still have not qualified.
A draw tonight would not be enough for Scotland, as Israel’s victory in Haifa last month would see Andi Herzog’s side qualify by virtue of a better head-to-head record.
If Israel – or any other group winner from League C - did indeed qualify by rights from their qualifying group, the runner-up with the next best record would take the vacant playoff spot. Scotland currently occupy that spot.
Hungary and Bulgaria have confirmed their runners-up finishes in groups C2 and C3 respectively, whilst Serbia, Romania or Montenegro will take second place in group C4 depending on tonight’s results.
If you're coming to #SCOISR tonight, there are plenty of goings-on in and around @HampdenPark to enhance your matchday experience, including:— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) November 20, 2018
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A draw with Israel would leave Scotland with seven points, a total that – once results against fourth-placed sides are discounted – would see Alex McLeish’s side level on points with Bulgaria as the best-placed runner-up, with Scotland’s superior goal difference tipping the balance in favour of McLeish’s men.
However, if Serbia was to lose tonight’s fixture with Lithuania, then it would instead be the Balkan nation that would be in the best runner-up position, bumping Scotland down to second in the rankings.
The equation for Scotland is therefore simple – win tonight, and a playoff spot for UEFA Euro 2020 is guaranteed. The team’s destiny is in their own hands.