Scotland were drawn Friday to play Israel in Glasgow in the Euro 2020 play-off semi-finals next March, but Steve Clarke’s team must win that game and then a second one-off away tie, if they are to make the tournament itself.
Scotland, who performed poorly in the main qualifying campaign but did win their last three matches, will fancy their chances at home to an Israel side ranked 89th in the world and who finished fifth out of six teams in qualifying Group G. They will meet at Hampden Park on March 26.
Friday’s draw at UEFA headquarters also decided who would be at home in the play-off finals on March 31, and Scotland — who are in Path C — will have to go to either Norway or Serbia and win if they are to reach a first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
Scotland were in the same Nations League group as Israel last year, losing 2-1 away in Haifa but then winning 3-2 in Glasgow thanks to a James Forrest hat-trick.
“We have three wins in a row and the benefit of momentum. We need to channel that positivity and focus on the many attributes we have,” Clarke told the Scottish FA website.
– Home carrot for Northern Ireland –
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland will be at home in the play-off final in Path B should they win their semi-final in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Republic of Ireland could be their opponents, although Mick McCarthy’s team must first win in Slovakia.
If the Republic progress to the tournament itself they will play at least two games at home in Dublin.
“Nothing extra could make me want to win a game of football, to be quite honest. That’s for me personally. But for the nation, for Ireland, it does mean a lot more, of course,” admitted McCarthy.
In Path D, Georgia and Belarus meet for the right to host either North Macedonia or Kosovo in the playoff final. Whoever emerges victorious progresses to a first ever major tournament finals.
In Path A, Iceland will host Romania with the winners travelling to face either Bulgaria or Hungary.
– Complex format –
The format for the 24-team finals — which for the first time will be staged in 12 cities in 12 different nations across the continent — is complex, with UEFA having to ensure that all hosts who qualify get to play in front of their own fans.
That means that the winner of Path C in the play-offs — whether it be Scotland or another team — will be in Group D alongside England with Wembley and Hampden hosting matches.
Similarly, the winners of Path B will be with Spain in Group E, in which matches will take place in Bilbao and Dublin.
The winners of the other play-offs will either go into Group C alongside Ukraine and the Netherlands, or Group F with Germany.
UEFA also performed another draw on Friday to confirm that Denmark will play all three pool matches at home in Copenhagen in Group B, including against Russia, despite Saint Petersburg being the other host city for the section. Belgium have already been placed in the same group.
The final draw for the tournament itself will be held in Bucharest next Saturday, November 30.
Iceland v Romania
Bulgaria v Hungary
Bulgaria or Hungary v Iceland or Romania
Bosnia and Herzegovina v Northern Ireland
Slovakia v Republic of Ireland
Bosnia and Herzegovina or Northern Ireland v
Slovakia or Republic of Ireland
Scotland v Israel
Norway v Serbia
Norway or Serbia v Scotland or Israel
Georgia v Belarus
North Macedonia v Kosovo
Georgia or Belarus v North Macedonia or Kosovo
– All semi-finals will be played as one-off ties on March 26, 2020, with the finals staged as one-off matches on March 31 next year
– The winners of each final will take the final four qualifying berths for Euro 2020