Israel ‘keeper Ofir Marciano reckons an empty Hampden can help them wreck Scotland’s Euro 2020 dreams as he heaped praise on the Tartan Army. The Hibs stopper is preparing to face his adopted home twice in quick succession, first when the nations meet again in this season’s UEFA Nations League campaign, then again the following month for the crunch play-off semi-final showdown.
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The winners of October’s clash will face either Serbia or Norway for a place in next summer’s finals, which were put back a year due to the coronavirus chaos that swept Europe this year. The SFA had hoped to use the Nations League opener on 4 September as a test event and allow a limited number of the Tartan Army inside the national stadium.
But UEFA insisted the lockout must continue during the September international window, and it’s unlikely that there will be bums of seats for the big one a month later. And Marciano believes that can help the Israelis who are looking to realize their dream of reaching just the second major finals in their history, their last appearance coming at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
“It will probably help us having no fans at Hampden because we know how good the Scottish fans can be, he supposed. But in the game, as soon as you go out it won’t have a massive effect.”
We have gotten used to playing with no supporters. It’s weird, but we are used to it. International games will be different though. As soon as you go out and the games start, you just forget there are no fans. Sometimes you expect to hear shouts from the fans and forget about the situation. Everyone here is hoping and expecting to get fans back as soon as possible.
Israel will have a new face in the Hampden dugout for both games, although he’s not an unfamiliar one to Marciano and his teammates. But their Euros fate now lies in his hands as he prepares to call the shots against the Scots. We know him well for the past two years so he’s not a stranger, said Marciano. He knows the quality we have in the team. He knows how he wants to play. We need to get in the best shape for the Scotland games.
“At the moment I am only focusing on playing for Hibs,” he said. “They are a massive club who I admire.
Domestically, Marciano is in the final year of his Hibs contract, although it’s understood an agreement over a new deal could be close after talks with the Easter Road club. The 30-year-old however, is concentrating solely on maintaining his and his team’s impressive start to the season and is happy to let his future sort itself out.
I’m enjoying it here and I want to upgrade my game and be the best I can for this club. I try not to get distracted by that. I just try to work hard every day and be as good as I can. It’s been a bit weird with what has happened, but as a professional footballer, we need to just put everything to one side when we go out there. I just try to focus on my job. Of course, you always think about how to improve your life, but I have to be good out there on the pitch to earn the right to have a good contract.
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