Tag Archives: Scottish Sport

Scotland Finding European Success

Report by ASF Sports Ambassador and reporter Cameron Steer 10/18/20

Scotland’s European soccer fixtures got off to a fantastic start with a 5-3 semi-final win on penalties against Israel to send them through to the Euro 2020 play-off .

Steve Clarke’s men now face Serbia on November 12th in Scotland’s first chance to qualify for a major tournament for the first time in over 20 years!

Scotland vs Israel

The game was tight, nervous, and absent of end quality for the most part, going through a whole ninety minutes and half an hour of extra time without either side being able to register a goal, the closest chances for Scotland coming from set pieces, McTominay heading a chance wide and Liam Cooper then hitting the post in the final minute of extra time. Eran Zahavi missed his chance to convert the first penalty of the shootout with Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall denying Zahavi in a tense moment.

In the build up to the game, Clarke stated that “Israel have a lot of very good attacking players” and talked of the threats that this would pose to his team. In reality, the Israeli players created very few troubling chances for David Marshall, apart from one which looked to be the game winner, Elhamed whipping in a cross which Weissman failed to get on the end of.

Overcoming Adversity

Even more impressive about this result is that Clarke and his men had to rearrange tactics with last minute injuries and positive covid tests in the camp, but it wasn’t just Scotland suffering the losses, six Israel players were ruled out due to positive tests. Twenty-four hours prior to the game, Stuart Armstrong came back with his positive result, meaning that another two key players, Kieren Tierney and Ryan Christie, as close contacts had to be quarantined as well. In addition to these three key players, right-back Liam Palmer was ruled out along with centre-back Scott McKenna. In accordance to these absences, Clarke changed his starting line-up slightly with midfielders Scott McTominay and Declan Gallagher and defenders Liam Cooper coming into the fold. Clarke also tested out a new strike partnership of Sheffield United’s, Oli McBurnie and Lyndon Dykes, of QPR.

It must be noted that this wasn’t just Scotland’s first penalty shootout win at men’s international level, but also their first in general. You wouldn’t be able to tell either, with the Scots converting all five of their penalties to win the game. Clarke and his men will now face Serbia on the 12th November to battle for a place in England’s Euro 2020 group in the first play-off final game for Scotland since Holland thumped us 6-1 over two legs in the Euro 2004 qualifiers.  

Scotland vs Slovakia

Following on from victory over Israel, Scotland came out confident against a Slovakia team weakened by nine changes to their starting line-up. Lyndon Dykes’ second goal in four games extended Scotland’s unbeaten run to seven games.

Four changes to the starting lineup from the Israel game meant that Clarke came good on his word to rotate the squad for these quickfire three games. Mcgregor, Cooper, Jack and McBurnie all started on the bench for a much needed rest. In their place Fraser, McClean, Fleck and Considine started. The importance of the occasion wasn’t lost on Considine who was making his international debut for Scotland at the mature age of 33. A very well deserved debut for a veteran whose impressed services over the last decade or so in an Aberdeen shirt. Considine’s debut started off a little shaky but after ten or fifteen minutes he grew into the game, looking generally solid and working hard to preserve a clean sheet.

Previously, Clarke expressed his concern for the strange environment created for his players by an empty Hampden Park for these games, however this doesn’t look to have affected the Tartan Army too much in recent games as they now look as if they are finally getting used to the absence of fans and the noise they bring. By the same token it does seem to take a while for the players to warm into the games with no fan atmosphere, the half chances and scrappy play of the first half standing testament to that. That being said, no less than ten minutes after the second half restart, Scotland took the lead through an excellent move with Fraser setting O’Donnell for an inch perfect cross that Dykes could sink his teeth into, 54 minutes in, Scotland 1-0 Israel. The next key chance fell to Sheffield United’s Ollie McBurnie who saw his header graze the bar in the 79th minute. McBurnie has not yet opened his goal account for Scotland but seems to grow into his role as the national team’s target man with every game he’s involved in.

Scotland vs Czech Republic

Scotland held on at 1-0 for 84 minutes of the game after a sixth minute goal from Newcastle’s Ryan Fraser which capped off a nice little bit of link up play between O’Donnell and Dykes. The previous two wins for Scotland looked to have taken a toll on the players fitness wise however with the Czeck Republic dominating the game for the most part and Scotland only registering one shot on target in comparison to the Czech Republic’s six. 

It’s very surprising that Scotland left Hampden Park with a win when viewing the games statistics but this is also a testament to the new found defensive solidarity which is fast becoming a key part of Clarkes teams results based philosophy. Perhaps its that, perhaps its luck, the Czech Republic certainly had some clear cut chances to equalize throughout the game, sixteen to be exact. First chance to equalize fell to Matej Vydra who found himself open at the back post, skewing his shot wide. The shots that the Czech Republic did get on target were excellently covered by goalkeeper David Marshall, most notably his improvised save to prevent Soucek from nodding home a header. Soucek then went on to misscue a shot from less than six yards from goal leading to Scotland countering, creating a chance for Ollie McBurnie who rattled the bar with a dipping effort which was the last action of the game.

Scotland leave this international break with three straight wins to teams we have historically struggled against in the past. That makes it eight straight games unbeaten in a run which stretches back to last Autumn. It certainly seems like the pin has dropped for the Scotland National Team who seem hungrier than ever to do well at the international level. Now it’s on to Serbia in November for the European Championship Playoff Final for the chance to join England’s group.

Scottish Soccer Preview with Cameron Steer

Our Sports Reporter and Sports Ambassador Cameron Steer shares his insight on Scotland’s upcoming European Nations League game against Israel on October 8th.

European Championship Qualifier vs Israel @ Hampden Park

Cameron hails from Lanark, and represented Scotland as a member of Scotland Men’s Lacrosse National Team and the Scotland National Football Team before coming to the US to study at Medaille College in Buffallo NY three years ago.

ASF Sports Ambassador Cameron Steer

“You have to respect the magnitude of the game” said Scotland boss Steve Clark, fully aware of the gravity of the upcoming match versus Israel in the European Championship Qualifiers.

Scotland have been on a solid run of recent form and are now a few good results away from qualifying for a major championship for the first time in over twenty years.

Recognizing the huge importance of the game, Clarke said his players “have a chance to make a little bit of history for their country.” It really is an exciting time for the Tartan Army, and especially for young people like myself who have never had the chance to experience Scotland play in a major tournament, is this the time?

The size of the Scotland squad has also increased for the upcoming fixtures, and understandably so, as Clarke went on to state, “Indeed the squad is bigger but we have three games in a very short space of time, it’s important we have options in the squad.”

Scotland manager Steve Clark gives a press conference ahead of Scotland’s big game against Israel.

Fitness concerns for the squad as a whole have also been expressed by the press in the build up to the fixtures. These concerns stem from the fact that thirteen members of the squad will play for their clubs the Sunday (4th October) prior to the international fixtures.

In response to these concerns Clarke said, “We’ve had good work in previous camps, so I think now that I feel comfortable that the principles of the way we want to play are more cemented.”

With Scotland sitting on potentially their biggest success of the last twenty years, it’s almost agonizing that they can’t have the famous Hampden roar around them as they strive for this incredible accomplishment.

Steve Clarke spoke on this noting, “the home advantage is eradicated by having no fans there, it’s something that we have to get used to, there’s not much point going on about the fans, we know that they are watching and supporting, socially distanced wherever they are.”

Playing against Israel is always a tough game for Scotland, with the sides sharing the points in a 1-1 draw last time out. Important then that we learn from our previous ties and use the experience to make ourselves better.

It really seems like Steve Clarke is starting to get things right in developing the identity of his team and their style of play, the quality of players has also increased with many of the squad representing some top English Premier League clubs.

Personally, I am very excited for the next couple months of international football and to see what Scotland can produce, but more immediately, I am so excited to watch them this coming week!

Cameron Steer