35 years ago Scotland ventured into unknown territory playing Israel for the first time. It was a World Cup Qualifier and took place in the Ramat Gan Stadion in Tel Aviv. It’s fair to say that Israel’s footballing history has not been an easy one as they have had to contend with boycotts and conflict from their neighbouring nations. They did qualify for the 1958 World Cup from the Asian and African section by virtue of no one being willing to play them. A play off with Wales was deemed necessary in the interests of fair play which saw the Welsh qualify for Sweden 1958.
Thy would reach the World Cup in 1970 via the Asia / Oceania group but for the 1982 World Cup they were placed among the European teams but were not UEFA members at this point. Scotland had started the campaign with a fine win in Sweden with Gordon Strachan scoring the only goal of the game; this was followed by a blank score draw with Portugal at Hampden.
By the time Scotland travelled to Israel on February 2nd, 1981, Israel had proved themselves sturdy opponents; having started with a draw with Northern Ireland in Tel Aviv and two draws with Sweden home and away. However, they had been well beaten in Lisbon where Portugal ran out 3-0 winners.
Scotland lined up with a fairly experienced side under Jock Stein. In goals was Alan Rough with full backs Danny McGrain and Frank Gray, then of Nottingham Forest with teammate Kenny Burns and Alex McLeish making up the defence. In midfield there was John Wark of Ipswich, Graeme Souness, John Robertson and captain Archie Gemmill, who had recently left Forest for Birmingham City. Up front was Kenny Dalglish and Steve Archibald then of Tottenham Hotspur. This is also the only time Scotland wore the red socks with the red away top as you can see splendidly modelled by John Robertson in the photo.
The sides were level at half time but according to Hugh Taylor of the Evening Times they were lucky not to go in 2-0 down at half time and that Alan Rough had his most professional performance for Scotland ever. Apparently the half time team talk was a bit of a bawling out by Jock as the team had been a ‘shambles’ in the first half. John Wark was carrying a hamstring injury so Stein chose to bring on Willie Miller and push Kenny Burns forward to bolster the midfield.
This must have worked as in 54th minute a John Robertson corner is knocked on by Alex McLeish and Kenny Dalglish finishes with some aplomb. The goal will also be posted on our Facebook page shortly. 1-0; time to batten the hatches and escape from Tel Aviv with the points. Dalglish was substituted fifteen minutes later with Andy Gray then of Wolves coming on but the Scots held on for a vital win. Scotland would be the only team to take both points in Tel Aviv with Portugal suffering a 4-1 humbling in October ’81 and indeed they beat Israel 3-1 a few months later at Hampden.
Scotland won the group with two points to spare and had qualified before their only defeat in the group to Portugal in Lisbon. Northern Ireland would surface as runners up and also qualified for Spain ’82, where the caused one or two upsets particularly in beating the host nation in a famous 1-0 win. As for Scotland . . .

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David Stuart