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Clarke: Israel’s improvement has set up ‘interesting’ World Cup clash

The Scotland head coach says both teams have developed during his time in charge.

Clarke: Israel’s improvement has set up ‘interesting’ World Cup clash SNS Group

Scotland boss Steve Clarke says he’s excited ahead of the national team’s crucial qualifier against Israel at a sold-out Hampden on Saturday, and believes the visitors have improved a lot in recent years.

With four games left in the qualifying group for the Qatar World Cup, Scotland sit in second place, with Israel just a point behind. Six wins from six games has made Denmark firm favourites to win the section and qualify automatically, leaving a fierce tussle to take the runner-up spot and a place in the play-offs.

Having taken Scotland to Euro 2020 through a play-off and seen the team improve over his time in charge, Clarke has belief that his players can get the job done. But with the side preparing to face Israel for the seventh time in three years, he pointed out that Willi Ruttensteiner’s side had progressed themselves and made themselves real contenders to take the next step.

Clarke 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.”

Israel have shown a real goal threat so far in the group, with 14 goals scored already and veteran forward Eran Zahavi netting six of them. Clarke said he knew they packed a punch up front.

“They’re a good team,” he said. “Certainly they have some forward threats.

“You mention Zahavi but Manor Solomon plays off the little left position and finds good positions within games. He’s a really good player, as we’ve found to our cost at times.

“Mu’nas Dabbur is a great target man and we’re not sure if he’s available or not. If he plays he gives them another threat.

“They have solid midfield players and they’re organised at the back. They’re quite similar to ourselves in terms of how they shape up and that’s probably why they’ve been quite close in the games between the two nations.”