Despite an ever-growing injury list, the Israel national team knows it will have
no excuse should it fail to defeat Azerbaijan in a must-win 2014 World Cup
qualifier at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Saturday night.
Gutman has known for several months that he would have to manage without top
scorer, Tomer Hemed, who could be out until next year after injuring his
However, he surely wasn’t expecting to be without six more
players who would have certainly featured in the squad.
The team’s second
highest scorer, Eden Ben-Basat, who together with Hemed has accounted for 10 of
Israel’s 15 goals in Group F, was ruled out after picking up a thigh injury
playing for French club Toulouse, while reliable leftback Rami Gershon will miss
the match after injuring his knee while playing for Beveren of
Maccabi Haifa defenders Taleb Tawatha and Eyal Meshumar, who
could have perhaps filled Gershon’s shoes, both pulled out of the squad after
suffering injuries in their team’s Europa League draw at Astra of Romania last
Gutman’s problems aren’t just limited to defense or attack, with
midfielders Biram Kiyal and Avi Rikan also both unavailable through
Midfielder Maor Melikson and defender Yuval Shpungin at least
made it to Israel for the start of training, but both are also injury doubts for
Gutman resorted to calling up Omer Damari, Ofir Davidzada and
Ofer Verta on Monday night to give himself more options, but he has got a real
headache as he tries to assemble a makeshift starting lineup for
Israel currently sits in third place in Group F with 11 points
from six matches, trailing secondplaced Russia, which has 12 points from six
games, and group-leader Portugal, which has 14 points from seven
Despite what seems like a promising position, Israel’s
chances of qualifying for a first World Cup in 44 years remain small, with the
blue-and-white still to visit Russia next Tuesday and play Portugal on the road
on October 11 before ending its campaign at home against Northern Ireland four
Besides winning its final two home matches, Israel will also
likely have to triumph in at least one of its games at Russia or Portugal to
have any hope of finishing in the runners-up position and qualifying for the
Elsewhere, the Israel Football Association and the Palestinian
Football Association agreed on a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to
facilitate the movement of persons and goods for soccer purposes in and out of
and within the Palestinian Authority.
The FIFA Task Force
Israel-Palestine held its first meeting in Zurich on Tuesday, under the
chairmanship of FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
The sides agreed to meet
again in Jordan, with a first report to be presented to the FIFA Executive
Committee in October.
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