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Scotland boss Steve Clarke ‘intrigued’ by impact of full Hampden for Israel game

Scotland v Moldova – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group F – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Steve Clarke is “intrigued” and excited to see how a full house at Hampden affects Scotland’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Israel on Saturday.

As Covid restrictions are relaxed, a crowd of around 50,000 will be at the national stadium for the first time since the Ayrshireman became head coach in May 2019.

After a morale-boosting 1-0 victory in Austria last month, Clarke’s men sit in second place in Group F behind runaway leaders Denmark and with a play-off spot in their own hands as they prepare to play Israel for the seventh time in three years.

“Recent experiences tells you it is going to be a tight game, not a lot between the two countries,” said Clarke, who will be without suspended centre-back Grant Hanley but who is “100 per cent” clear as to which team he will pick to take on Willibald Ruttensteiner’s outfit.

“This time we have something a little bit different,  we have a full house at Hampden which we haven’t had before.

“I am intrigued to see if that makes a difference.

“It is excitement for me, the first time as head coach that I will have experienced a full house at Hampden.

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“I know the players are looking forward to it, I am looking forward to it and hopefully it gives us that little bit extra impetus to go and get the points that we want.

“I think it is brilliant and a measure of where we were and where we are now.

“We have improved and the supporters have bought into that.

“OK, we had the Euros in the summer that everyone will say was a disappointment but for the supporters they enjoyed being part of the campaign rather than sitting watching on the television.

“It was nice for them to be at the games and feel as though they were part of that whole tournament and I think that has carried on.

“The fact that we have a full house this game and probably a full house against Denmark next month shows the supporters are buying into this group of players and so they should because the players are doing good things for their country.”

The first group match between the sides in Tel Aviv ended in a 1-1 draw but Clarke believes Scotland’s victory in Vienna and Israel’s 5-2 home win over Austria last month sets the game up nicely.

The former Kilmarnock and West Brom boss said: “I have spoken quite a lot about how I feel we have improved over my tenure and I think the Israelis have done the same under their coach. They have done well, they have improved.

“Obviously we both had big results against Austria, last time we had a great win in Vienna, Israel had a great result at home to Austria so it has made it interesting.

“Third seed against fourth seed in the group, and suddenly it is a big game for second place and that is a credit to both nations.

“It is my first experience of being involved in a qualifying campaign all the way through where realistically we have a chance of being second position.

“So it is a little learning curve for me as well, it is good experience, and what I am learning is that every game is a cup final.

“We need the points so this is the next cup final. When we went to Vienna last month and we had to make sure we got a positive result, three points was a great result, six points from the last camp was a great return.

“It has put us in control of second position and now it is up to us to maintain that.”