Scotland 3-2 Israel: Alex McLeish says win was 'perfect' after criticism

Allan McGregor and Alex McLeish
Allan McGregor's late save helped secure victory for Alex McLeish's Scotland

Earning a Euro 2020 play-off by beating Israel was "perfect" and gives the Scotland squad a "massive feeling of self-satisfaction", said manager Alex McLeish.

James Forrest's Hampden hat-trick gave the Scots a nervy 3-2 win and ensured Nations League promotion.

Scotland now have a back-up route to Euro 2020 should they fail to reach the finals through the standard qualifiers.

"I'm so proud of the guys; we answered a lot of questions," said McLeish.

"We were written off and we came through it against adversity. That is an amazing part of your character when you can do that. It's great to get the light at the end of the tunnel."

Israel would have topped League C Group 1 had they avoided defeat, but instead Scotland move up to League B for the next staging of the Nations League, joining the likes of Germany, Croatia and Wales.

Defeat in Israel last month had put McLeish under pressure, but a 4-0 victory in Albania on Saturday and the defeat of Israel made it three wins out of four in Group 1.

"I took a hit after that Israel game," the manager said. "I was down on that one.

"But I'm always very conscientious and criticism is fine because it makes you want to do better. I know that sometimes it can be over the top. But we bounced back."

The goals took Forrest's international tally to five, with the Celtic winger having scored twice in Shkoder at the weekend.

The 27-year-old has now netted 12 in his past 11 games for club and country.

"James is in phenomenal form," McLeish said. "His finishing was unerring. Incredible. I was waiting on them going past the post but to see them nestle inside was brilliant finishing.

Final table

What happens now?

  • Scotland have moved up to the third pot of seeds for next month's Euro 2020 qualifying draw
  • The 10-match qualifying campaign runs from March-November 2019, with the top two in each group qualifying
  • Should the Scots not progress, they will have a home play-off semi-final in the Nations League play-offs
  • Victory in that match and in the final would secure a Euro 2020 place
  • As things stand, Scotland would play Finland for the right to play either Norway or Serbia in the final. Home advantage will be decided by ballot
  • However, if any of those four sides reach Euro 2020 through conventional qualifying, Bulgaria would take the vacant play-off place

'Now we've seen what these guys can do' - analysis

Former Scotland striker Kris Boyd on Radio Scotland

Why was James Forrest not starting at the beginning of the campaign? Why wasn't Ryan Fraser? The whole nation has been saying we need to go to a back four and get our better players in there and we've done that in the last two games and we've seen what these guys can do. Defensively there is work to be done, but given where we came from last week, Scotland deserve credit.

Former Scotland defender Willie Miller on Radio Scotland

Alex maybe couldn't say it but these players have now got to be the first ones you look at. If I'm a player who's come in and got the results, I'd be asking the manager why I wasn't playing if I was dropped. Those who haven't been involved have set themselves back.

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