We know all about Israeli test, says Alex McLeish

Dejected Israel players walk off following a friendly against Northern Ireland. Pic: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Dejected Israel players walk off following a friendly against Northern Ireland. Pic: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
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Whatever else that Scotland may lack under Alex McLeish, they will not want for information on opponents. And the national manager has been assisted in genning up on the Israelis who will host his team on Thursday in the Nations League courtesy of Northern Ireland counterpart Michael O’Neill and his staff.

Israel’s 3-0 loss in a Belfast friendly against O’Neill’s men was their eighth defeat in ten games and followed a Nations League opening loss to an Albania side that Scotland then comfortably beat at Hampden. If all this suggests Scotland ought to have little difficulty claiming all three points in Haifa, a cautionary note is offered by the presence of striker Munnas Dabour in the Israeli ranks. His double for Salzburg in the 3-1 defeat of Celtic in midweek took his tally for the season to 15 goals in only 16 games.

“I saw their coach Andy Herzog a couple of weeks ago at the FIFA conference and they are going through a period of building a system,” McLeish said. “In the Northern Ireland game it looks like a drubbing, but they had chances and have a couple of dangerous characters in their centreforwards Dabour and [Tomer] Hemed. They have explosive wing-backs as well who go really high and there’s no doubt it won’t be a walkover. I met Michael and he gave me a bit of a rundown on them and I’m going to seek more analysis from the Irish boys.

“It will be a tough game and it reminds me of going to Israel when we were trying to qualify for the 1982 World Cup and we were meant to thrash them. But the only goal came when Kenny Dalglish scored the winner from a McLeish flick on...

“They are working hard on the system and I’ll be preparing the lads for a tough game.

“We go with confidence following the Albania performance. But this is where we need to build up our mentality in terms of going away from home and having the balls to go to the Israels and Georgias of the world and take control. I’m not saying that’s the only thing that has blighted us.

“Gordon [Strachan] had a team playing well and I enjoyed the games – but then we had one slip. That damaged our chances and hopes and that’s what we are trying to eradicate.

“It’s never easy, though, and their recent results show they lost narrowly to Italy and the bigger teams they play they only lose 1-0 here and there and have a new coach implementing his style.”