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Familiar foes with experience in Scotland – focus on Israel

Scotland v Israel – UEFA Euro 2020 – Play-Offs – Semi Final – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Scotland host Israel on Saturday in a crucial World Cup qualifier.

Here is the lowdown on a side Steve Clarke’s team have got to know well in recent years.

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Israel are a point behind Scotland with three heavy wins over Moldova, the Faroe Islands and Austria, as well as a draw at home to Scotland, from their six matches in the section so far. Their only defeats have come at home and away to Denmark, who beat them 5-0 in Copenhagen in their most recent match.

Remarkably, this will be the seventh meeting between the teams in just three years. The encounters have been pretty evenly matched so far, with two wins for Israel, one for Scotland plus three draws, although the Scots went on to win one of those tied matches on penalties in the crucial Euro 2020 play-off at Hampden last October.

Manager

Willibald Ruttensteiner, left, and Scotland boss Steve Clarke

Willibald Ruttensteiner, left, will renew acquaintances with Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Willibald Ruttensteiner is a 58-year-old Austrian who took over as coach of Israel last year after a two-year stint as the national team’s sporting director.

He had performed a similar role with the Austrian Football Association for more than a decade and also took charge of Austria on an interim basis in between managerial changes – including victory over Northern Ireland and a 1-0 loss to England in October 2005.

Players

Liel Abada celebrates scoring for Celtic

Liel Abada is one of the Scottish-based players in Israel’s squad (Andrew Milligan/PA)

There are three players with Scottish Premiership experience in the Israel squad. Long-serving former Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano, who joined Feyenoord in the summer, is likely to start between the sticks while Celtic pair Liel Abada and Nir Bitton are also involved. Former Hoops defender Hatem Abd Elhamed – now at Hapoel Be’er Sheva – is suspended.

Vitesse full-back Eli Dasa has caught the eye in previous meetings with Scotland, while Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Manor Solomon and Hoffenheim striker Mu’nas Dabbur are among the most high-profile players in the squad. Captain Bibras Natkho and PSV Eindhoven striker Eran Zahavi are the two most experienced campaigners of the group.

Pedigree

Scotland’s Oliver McBurnie, centre, and Israel’s Eli Dasa, right, battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2020 Play-Off semi final

Defeat to Scotland last October was as close as Israel have come to a European Championship (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Israel won the Asian Cup in 1964, when they were part of the Asian Football Confederation. They have qualified for a World Cup finals once, when they made it to the 1970 tournament in Mexico before suffering group-stage elimination.

The closest they have come to qualifying for a European Championship since they switched to UEFA in the early 1990s was in 2000 and 2020 when they made it to the play-offs, losing to Denmark and Scotland respectively.