James Forrest has warmly welcomed Scotland’s pairing with Israel in the Nations League play-offs.
The Celtic winger grabbed a hat-trick when the sides met at Hampden, a year ago, to help earn the country their chance of a back-door route to Euro 2020.
“It was a great night for me and the team,” said Forrest.
“That was the victory that got us into the play-offs, so we’ll take confidence from that success ahead of meeting them again in March.
“I got my first Scotland goals in the game before against Albania, and then when we had to beat Israel to go through, I was obviously buzzing to get the hat-trick that did it.
“One of the goals I scored that night – the one I flicked up and volleyed in, – that’s one of the best I’ve ever scored, either for Celtic or Scotland.”
Not that the 28-year-old is taking success in the play-off semi-final for granted.
“Obviously we beat Israel at home the last time. But we lost to them away. They’ve got good players, including the guys who are here,” said the Celtic star.
“But we’re at home, we will have the fans behind us, So, hopefully, we can get the same result.
“There was a bit of banter with Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed as soon as our physio, Tim Williamson, came out and told us the draw!
“Nir missed the games before, so he’s excited about it.
“Israel have struggled a wee bit recently. But it’s a one-off game and they’ll be right up for it, so it’s still dangerous for us.”
After the dead rubber Euro qualifiers against San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan, Forrest relishes the thought of playing in a match where there is a big prize on the line.
“I’d guess there will be a full house for Israel, which will be great,” he continued.
“The fans should be right behind us too, as we’ve won the last three and scored a few in the process.
“That should give them a bit more confidence in us as well. And, as I say, we will go in buzzing after winning three-in-a-row.
“People maybe said they were nothing games ahead of time. But I don’t think anyone went in with the attitude.
“Everyone wanted to stake their claim for March, and we all did ourselves justice in that regard, I think.”
Forrest’s club skipper, Scott Brown, last week refused to rule out the possibility when quizzed as to whether he might make a return in a Scotland shirt. It is a prospect the winger relishes.
“We all know how much he does at club level day in, and day out. So for the staff and players, if he did come back, everyone would welcome it,” admitted Forrest.
“He’d be a welcome addition.
“That would be twice he’d come back. But he kind of casts a wee bit of doubt on whether he actually retired the second time!
“But if he came back this time, it would be great. It will be up to him – and the manager – to see how everyone is feeling about it come March.
“Everyone enjoys going away anyway. But the game in March will hopefully take care of itself and we can get to a finals.
“Obviously, the venue for the second game didn’t go our way. But if we win the Israel semi-final, we will have momentum and be feeling good.”
The Final offers a potential trip to Norway, who have Serbia in their semi-final, which would put Forrest in direct opposition to fellow Hoop, Kristoffer Ajer.
“It is quite an exciting thought,” said the wide-man.
“We have not had many international games against our team-mates, and the banter has been flying around.
“Nir’s giving us a bit already and big Ajer is quite outspoken. They all want to get there, the same as we do.”