National boss Steve Clarke has challenged Scotland to take complete control of their World Cup qualifying destiny by defeating Israel.
Clarke insists the fact Scotland are bidding to end a 24 year wait to compete in a World Cup finals underlines how difficult qualifying is.
He claims statisticians only gave the Scots an outside 13% chance of reaching Qatar 2022 when the qualification campaign began.
The Scots boss insists chances of qualification rocketed up to 60% following a 1-0 defeat of rivals Austria in Vienna last month.
Now as Scotland host Israel at a sold out Hampden, Clarke has called for a victory that will make the his side odds on favourites to finish second and secure a play-off berth.
Scotland currently occupy second spot in Group F and hold a one point advantage over third placed Israel.
Clarke said: “Somebody said we still only have a 13% chance of qualifying for the World Cup.
“That shows you how difficult it is for a country like ourselves to come out of this section.
“But we were looking at a 22% chance before the Austria game of claiming second position and now we are up to 60%.
“We need to make sure now that we build on the two results we got last month, put us into a position to control second place.
“We need to cement that against Israel.”
Don’t let Austria victory go to waste
Scotland’s victory over second seeded Austria in Vienna ensured Clarke’s side now control their own destiny.
Should they defeat Israel the Scots will face group minnows Faroe Islands away on Tuesday and Moldova away next month.
Maximum points from the Israel, Faroe Islands and Moldova triple header would effectively secure second spot before the Scots close the campaign with a final Group F game against leaders Denmark at Hampden on November 15.
Clarke said: “You always want to control your own destiny.
“It’s up to us to continue that as we have put ourselves in a really good position.
“I used to say it with my club sides, if you went to a place where you weren’t expected to get a big result, get it and then don’t follow it up with the next game then it’s a result that goes to waste.
“We don’t want to waste the energy and the quality from the 1-0 victory in the last game. We have to make sure we get another positive result this time.”
Fight for play-off spot not a two horse race
Clarke is quick to dismiss any notion that Scotland’s win in Vienna has reduced the battle for runners-up spot into a two horse race between Scotland and Israel.
Austria, he insists, cannot be discounted even though they are four points behind the Scots and lost 5-2 to Israel in Haifa last month.
He said: “I think it would be foolish to rule Austria out.
“They showed in the summer they are a good team.
“Austria had a little dip, the last window wasn’t great for them but they are a proud nation and they’ll want to be better this time and next month.
“They’ll be looking at the last four games and thinking about picking 12 points.
“That’s how I imagine it. Obviously ourselves and Israel with the results against Austria have put us in a better position but the Austrians won’t give up just yet.’
Tartan Army rise following Euro 2020
A packed Hampden will cheer on the Scots for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March last year.
Clarke insists the capacity crowd is not only down to the easing of lockdown restrictions at games but also the willingness of the supporters to come to the qualifier.
He reckons the Tartan Army can deliver an edge against a side the Scots will be playing competitively for the seventh time in three years.
Clarke said: “It’s strange to have to wait so long but obviously it has been strange times over the last two years for everybody.
“It’s nice that we are finally in a position where we can sell out Hampden and also that we have managed to put ourselves in a position where the supporters are buying into it.
“The supporters enjoyed being part of the European Championships in the summer and, okay, it didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to.
“But I think the supporters enjoyed the fact they were involved in the tournament.
“It was their tournament, they were there, they were in it.
“Selling out this game tells you that the supporters want to get behind this group of players, which is fantastic for them.
“And also a credit to them as well.’
The Hampden Roar returns… finally
Clarke has no doubt a 5pm kick-off on a Saturday will lead to a Hampden Roar from the Tartan Army.
He insists it is the job of himself and his players to ensure the home support have something to cheer for the entire ninety minutes.
The national boss said: “The supporters before the game are going to be fantastic, we know that.
“We know they will be fantastic at the start of the game.
“If we can start the game well and get on top, then they can carry us a long way.
“There will also be times in the game when we will be under pressure and have to control the game without the ball.
“The supporters need to show they can be patient and get behind us when we need that bit of support. I’m sure they’ll do that.”