Steve Clarke reveals all players were made to practise penalties before perfect shoot-out win v Israel
Steve Clarke hailed his players’ nerve after his side reached the Euro 2020 play-off final. The Scotland manager revealed that every player practised penalties after training this week.
Scotland now stand one game away from their first major finals since 1998. Kenny McLean struck the winning penalty to overcome Israel as Scotland contested their first-ever shoot-out after poor quality 0-0 draw.
The hosts scored all five kicks while Israel missed their first, when star player Eran Zahavi saw his effort brilliantly blocked by David Marshall.
Scotland now face Serbia, who defeated Norway 2-1 in Oslo, in the play-off final on 12 November.
“It was a tight, tense nervous affair which it was always going to be,” said Clarke. “The previous game showed there wasn’t a lot between the two teams.
“But I thought we had better control defensively than we had in the last game and we created the best chances in the game, although there weren’t very many.
“We had touched on it every day in training after the last session, every player that trained hit a penalty. Fortunately our goalkeeper had a lot of practise at saving them.
“The standard of penalties in training was good but obviously there’s no correlation between that and taking one in a really tense situation like tonight. But I was delighted to see them all hit the back of the net.
“The nerve they showed was great. We’re talking about big personalities and big characters. But I think they showed that during the game as well. There was a lot of pressure on them in that game. It was always going to be tight and tense but the players showed a terrific determination, desire and character to get a result for their country.
“We spoke about putting a smile on everybody’s face,” he added. “It might not have been a very pretty performance but it was a performance which showed a little bit of heart. This is a group of players who want to be successful and they show that on the pitch.”
It was only the second time a Scotland side had played extra-time – the last time being a World Cup play-off v Czechoslovakia in 1961. They lost that 4-2.
It was a better outcome against Israel, who are becoming old foes. The teams have already played each other four times in the last two years and meet again in the Nations League next month, six days after facing Serbia in a match that will define the Clarke era.
“It’s a one-off game,” said Kenny Mclean, who replaced Stephen O’Donnell in the second period of extra-time.
“We have given ourselves this chance to take this country to a major tournament. We will go there and give it everything we can because we know everybody is behind us. We are exactly the same. At the end of the day, we are fans. We’ve got a couple of games to look forward to in the next few days. We will focus on them but at the back of our minds we know how much this next game is going to mean.”
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