History against Scotland as past play-off record examined ahead of Israel clash
History is against Scotland when it comes to qualifying for major competitions through play-offs.
There’s only been one success in four previous attempts – and that came 35 years ago when a trip to Mexico 86 was the reward for a double-header win over Australia in the World Cup play-offs.
Now, this UEFA Nations League semi-final meeting with Israel is the first time in 17 years Scotland have been involved in a designated showdown for qualification to a major tournament, with a place in the rerranged Euro 2020, now scheduled to take place in 2021, the prize.
There’s been a 22 year absence from world football’s main events but, Australia aside, play-offs and the Tartan Army haven’t had the best of records.
Scotland 2 Czechoslovakia 4 (1961)
The two teams met in Brussels in a one-off encounter to see who reached the following year's World Cup finals after both finished on six points in their qualifying group, which also featured the Republic of Ireland. Ian St John twice gave Scotland the lead but Czechoslovakia took the game to extra time with a controversial late goal after a shot bounced off the underside of the bar and down near the line. Still angered by the equaliser, Scotland midfielders Paddy Crerand and Jim Baxter bizarrely fought over a sponge before the extra 30 minutes started. John White hit the bar, but a Scotland team missing the injured Bill Brown, Billy McNeill, Duncan Mackay, Alex Scott and Davie Wilson, ultimately missed out to a side that lost to Brazil in the final in Chile the following year.
Scotland 2 Australia 0 (1985)
Scotland pipped Wales to second spot in their World Cup qualifying group behind Spain to set up a play-off against the winners of the Oceania section. Davie Cooper drilled home a free-kick and Kenny Dalglish set up Frank McAvennie to seal a first-leg win for new boss Alex Ferguson at Hampden. Scotland finished off the job in Melbourne.
Scotland 1 England 2 (1999)
Scotland came close to upsetting Kevin Keegan's England side in this Euro 2000 play-off despite suffering a 2-0 first-leg defeat. With Scotland missing freshly injured holding midfielder Paul Lambert, Paul Scholes twice escaped his marker to score at Hampden. Billy Dodds hit the bar and Kevin Gallacher scuffed a good chance in a tight affair, and Scotland were written off ahead of the trip to Wembley. But Don Hutchison headed them into a half-time lead and England needed a brilliant reaction stop from David Seaman to prevent Christian Dailly taking the game to extra-time.
Scotland 1 Holland 6 (2003)
James McFadden combined well with Darren Fletcher to fire Scotland to a memorable Hampden win against Dick Advocaat's side in the first leg of the European Championship qualifier. The Dutch romped home in Amsterdam four days later, though, with Ruud Van Nistelrooy grabbing a hat-trick and former Rangers defender Frank De Boer also on target.
Thursday’s play-off at Hampden kicks off at 7.45pm.