Tal Ben-Haim and Omer Damari of the Israel national soccer team.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israel national team enters Friday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier at Liechtenstein hoping to avoid a new low in a campaign that for most involved can’t end soon enough.
After dropping to a record-equaling fourth consecutive defeat last month and failing to score a goal for a third straight match, Israel’s dejecting campaign comes to an end with two games over the next four days.
The blue-and-white visits lowly Liechtenstein in Vaduz on Friday before hosting Spain at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem in its final qualifier next Monday.
The last, and only time, Israel lost four qualifiers in a row until last month was at the start of its 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign, its first as a UEFA member.
The current losing streak stretches back to March when Israel was thrashed 4-1 in Spain. That was followed by a 3-0 home loss to Albania and last month’s 1-0 defeats to Macedonia and Italy.
The disappointment on the pitch has been accompanied by disarray off it. Coach Elisha Levy’s tenure is set to end next week, and not just because the team hasn’t shown any progress under his guidance.
Levy has called up 56 different players during his short stint, failing to find a squad or a lineup to build around.
He has found himself constantly under criticism for his squad selection, although Levy insists much of it has been motivated by hidden interests from coaches, players and agents.
Even without the in-form Taleb Tawatha, Munas Dabbur and Diya Saba, who were all snubbed for disciplinary reasons, Israel isn’t expected to encounter too much trouble on Friday. Levy said that Tawatha was dropped as he didn’t behave appropriately prior to the Italy match, Dabbur hadn’t displayed the expected professionalism by pulling out with injuries the previous three times he was called up, and Saba doesn’t deserve to play for the national team after criticizing the coach behind his back.
Liechtenstein has lost all eight of its qualifiers to date, scoring a single goal while conceding 34. That one goal, however, came against Israel, with the blue-and-white laboring to a 2-1 win when the teams met in Jerusalem last October.