Israel's national soccer team at practice.
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
After opening its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with an impressive 2-1 victory in Cyprus, Israel faces a must-win match at Andorra on Monday night.
The blue-and-white will be confident of making it six points out of six against a team which has lost 42 consecutive qualifiers.
Andorra suffered a 6-0 defeat at Belgium on Friday and hasn’t picked up a single point in its past four qualifying campaigns.
The small mountainous principality in the Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border has only scored six total goals during its four previous campaigns, registering a humbling combined goal difference of 0-30 in 2014 World Cup qualification.
As a result, Israel coach Eli Gutman has not had an easy time trying to convince his players that they face a tough test on Monday, especially as they enter the match brimming with confidence after picking up all three points in Nicosia.
Gutman insisted after the match in Cyprus that the blue-and-white will “sweat” in Andorra and he has used Wales’ 2-1 victory in the principality last month to persuade his players that they will not have an easy time on Andorra’s synthetic pitch on Monday.
Wales required an 81st-minute Gareth Bale winner to claim all three points after Andorra took the lead in the sixth minute.
“We don’t know how we will cope with the synthetic pitch, but there is nothing we can do about it,” Gutman said. “We respect every opponent.
I want the players to build on the win in Cyprus because that is the only way we can improve.”
Wales currently leads the group with four points from two matches, with Belgium and Israel on three points from a single game and Cyprus with three points from two contests. Bosnia has just one point after two matches, with Andorra already amassing a 1-8 goal difference after two games.
Gutman is expected to make at least one change to the lineup which beat Cyprus, with Nir Biton set to replace Sheran Yeini in the center of the midfield.
The coach may well also use another striker alongside Omer Damari, with the blueand- white likely to dominate the possession while the hosts will settle for defending.
Captain Tal Ben-Haim echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“There are no easy matches and Wales struggled here,” said the defender. “We will not be arrogant, but we need to win this match.”