Scotland prepare for first international in ten months

Scotland Head Coach Steve Clarke is seen during a Scotland training session ahead of their European Qualifying match against Kazakhstan at Oriam on November 18, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Scotland national team will play their first match of 2020 when they face Israel at Hampden on Friday evening.

Steve Clarke’s side haven’t kicked a ball since defeating Cyprus and Kazakhstan last November as football’s calendar was ripped up when the global pandemic took hold.

Now, with Premiership football already being played and other competitions gearing up for the restart, international football is back and Scotland begin with their first match of the new Nations League campaign.

Israel are the opponents in the opening Group B2 game before Clarke and his players travel to face Czech Republic on Monday.

The match, which will be played behind closed doors at the national stadium, has added significance with Scotland to face Israel again next month in the crucial Euro 2020 play-off that could pave the way for a first major finals appearance since 1998.

Manager Steve Clarke insists Friday’s game is important in its own right and is not the time to experiment.

“No dress rehearsal,” said the former Scotland defender.

“I don’t think you can do that with your country. You have to win the next game.

“So Israel at home, in the Group B section of the Nations League and we focus on that.

“Every game that you represent your country is important and tomorrow night will be no different and three points would be a good start.”

Clarke could hand a debut to Australia-born QPR striker Lyndon Dykes, who has committed his international future to Scotland. After forwards Oli McBurnie and Lawrence Shankland withdrew from the initial squad, Dykes could find himself starting against Israel.

The manager also has the opportunity to play Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney for the first time, though he may have a headache fitting the former Celtic star into the same team as fellow left-back and Scotland captain Andy Robertson.

Clarke had led the team to three victories in a row at the end of last year and had been looking forward to the play-offs that had been scheduled for March.

Instead, he is trying to rebuild the momentum after a long enforced lay-off and he admits it is good to be back.

Clarke said: “For me it’s been a godsend after nine-and-a-half months without a camp. It has been great to get the boots on and get back on the grass.

“We’ve had a really good week. Lots of information, lots of refreshing the players’ memory from how we finished the last campaign which was on the back of three good wins and we look to carry that momentum forward.”
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