NIR BITTON has fired a Euro 2020 warning to Celtic team-mates Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Ryan Christie and Greg Taylor.

The champions’ quartet starred in Scotland’s 3-1 win over Kazakhstan at Hampden in the last of the qualifying campaign that hardly got past first base following an embarrassing 3-0 defeat against last night’s opponents in March – a defeat that saw Steve Clarke replace Alex McLeish as the nation’s boss.

The Scots are now relying on getting through the March play-offs in an attempt to reach next summer’s Finals – and they could face Bitton’s Israel in Friday’s draw.

And the versatile midfielder/central defender is determined to make certain his country make history, no matter who they face.

Israel could meet Clarke’s side at Hampden next year along with Bulgaria or Romania for a place in the summer showpiece.

Scotland, with the help of a hat-trick from Hoops winger James Forrest, defeated Bitton’s nation 3-2 in their Nations League group last season.

However, Bitton is confident the nation will be rejuvenated by the time of their play-offs – the first time they have reached them for 20 years when they lost 8-0 on aggregate to Denmark for a spot at Euro 2000.

The elegant 6ft-plus Celts ace, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “We know we have not had the best of qualifying campaigns, but we have been handed a great chance to forget about that in the play-offs.

HIGH AND MIGHTY…Nir Bitton puts the pressure on the Hearts defence.

“We are 180 minutes away from qualifying for the European Championships for the first-ever time and making history.

“That will give us an enormous boost. We know we need to play better, but we have four months to get to work now and concentrate on the semi-final.

“I certainly believe we have the players to qualify. I think all the countries in the play-offs are of similar ability and it’s about seizing the moment.

“We have two games to get to Euro 2020. Two massive Finals and that’s the way we will approach them.

“Let’s wait to the draw on Friday to see who we are playing. But what a great chance it gives us now to create a fantastic story.”

On the club front, Bitton has recovered from the injury that saw him sidelined following the 2-0 win at Ibrox at the start of September.

He came on as a late substitute for groin-strain victim Hatem Abd Elhamed in the 2-1 Europa League Group E triumph over Lazio in Rome, the side’s first win on Italian soil in 13 attempts.

Bitton was an unused substitute in the 2-0 win over Motherwell before the international break and is likely to be involved in the squad for the visit of Livingston on Saturday.



About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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