Despite only managing a 1-1 draw at Azerbaijan in its 2014 World Cup qualifying opener on Friday, Israel coach Eli Gutman remained upbeat regarding the national team’s chances of reaching a first major tournament since 1970.

Bibras Natcho gave Israel a 1-0 lead it scarcely deserved in the 50th minute with a shot from 30 meters out, but Rusian Abisov made the most of some poor blue-and-white defending to equalize 15 minutes later and the national team required late heroics from goalkeeper Dudu Aouate to claim a draw.

Israel continued the bitterly disappointing play it displayed in its four friendly games since Gutman took charge at the beginning of the year, but the coach insisted that his side can overcome Friday’s setback.

“This is a disappointing result because we aimed to win this match and it is a shame we didn’t manage to do so,” Gutman said.

“On the other hand, this isn’t the end of the world. This is a tough place to play and I’m sure other teams will also drop points here. All in all, I’m pleased with the effort shown by the players.

We are still dreaming of reaching the World Cup and we will give our best against Russia.”

Israel hosts Russia in its second qualifier on Tuesday at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.

Russia defeated Northern Ireland 2-0 in its first qualifier on Friday, while Portugal beat Luxembourg 2-1 in Group F’s other match.

“We must beat Russia at any cost, if we don’t it will be a disaster,” said captain Yossi Benayoun, who came on as a 74thminute substitute but could do little to help Israel.

“Clearly we wanted to beat all the so called small teams, but I think some people take these teams too lightly,” Natcho said. “We are capable of beating Russia at home and that is our goal.”

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