Maccabi Netanya striker Diya Saba .
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
With Israel’s next qualifier almost six months away and with the new head coach yet to be named, interim coach Alon Hazan has decided to use the national team’s friendly against Romania in Netanya on Saturday to hand players their first opportunity with the blue-and-white.
No fewer than 10 of the 22 players who assembled for Wednesday’s opening training session have never played for the national team, meaning there are set to be numerous debutants in Netanya on Saturday.
The likes of Hapoel Beersheba defender Oren Bitton and Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Dor Micha are likely to be in the plans of whoever is ultimately named as Elisha Levy’s successor, but among those receiving their first call up are also veterans like the 32-year-old Eran Levy.
The Maccabi Netanya midfielder has been one of the main reasons behind the team’s surprise Premier League campaign and may well never get another chance to play for the blue-and-white.
“I’m happy and excited to be representing Israel, and it doesn’t matter to me if I’ll be doing so in a match or just in a practice,” said Levy, who last played for a national team in September 2001 when he was part of Israel’s under-17 side.
“This is a childhood dream of every player that can also be realized at the age of 32.”
Hazan, the coach of Israel’s under-19 side, was asked to guide the senior team against Romania as the Israel Football Association doesn’t plan to name its next coach until the end of the season.
Bnei Yehuda coach Yossi Abuksis and Hapoel Haifa’s Nir Klinger are the current favorites.
Israel’s next meaningful match doesn’t come until September 7 when it begins its UEFA Nations League Group Four League C campaign at Albania. The blueand- white will visit Northern Ireland for a friendly four days later, with the national side’s first home match against Scotland in the new competition to be held at Haifa Stadium on October 11.
Israel hosts Albania in Beersheba on October 14, with the campaign to come to a close in Scotland on November 20.
Although the new competition is played in addition to the European Championship qualifiers, which start in March 2019, it provides a back door to Euro 2020, with one team from each league earning a place at UEFA’s flagship tournament.
In each league, the four group winners enter a playoff system, consisting of two semifinals and a final. The ultimate winner will qualify for Euro 2020.