Gutman leads squad into Portugal for penultimate qualifier

By
October 10, 2013 23:56

With his future hanging in the balance, Israel coach Eli Gutman is desperate for a positive result on the road against Portugal on Friday night to help boost his chances of being awarded a contract extension.

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Ronaldo leads Portugal against Israel.

israel vs ronaldo 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

With his future hanging in the balance, Israel coach Eli Gutman is desperate for a positive result on the road against Portugal on Friday night to help boost his chances of being awarded a contract extension.

Israel is playing mainly for pride in Lisbon after losing any realistic hope of advancing from Group F following last month’s draw with Azerbaijan and defeat at Russia.

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With a six-point gap over Northern Ireland and Luxembourg, the blue-and-white is also all but guaranteed to end its 2014 World Cup qualifying group in third place regardless of the outcome of the match against Portugal and then versus Northern Ireland in its final qualifier at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Tuesday.

Israel’s players have rallied behind Gutman in the lead-up to the match, insisting that he deserves at least one more campaign as coach.

However, while their words are likely to have little influence on Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon when he comes to make his decision, their performance on the field over the next few days could have a significant impact on Gutman’s prospects of remaining at the helm.

The national team came agonizingly close to recording a stunning victory over Portugal when the teams met at Ramat Gan in March, with a 93rdminute equalizer by Fabio Coentrao tying the score at 3- 3 after Israel took a 3-1 lead in the 70th minute.

Israel restrained Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo for much of the match in March and Gutman will be using a similar formation on Friday in the hope of containing the phenomenon once more.

Shiran Yeini is expected to yet again be given the role of manmarking Ronaldo, with Eitan Tibi and Tal Ben Haim to continue their partnership in the center of defense and Dudu Aouate to start in goal despite several costly mistakes for Israel and not featuring regularly for RCD Mallorca in the Spanish second division this season.

“Even when we enter matches like this in which we haven’t really got a chance we still give our very best,” said Ben Haim.

“Our campaign has been a big disappointment, but we must remember that we were placed in a group with two teams that are much better than us. The match against Portugal is very difficult, but we’ve seen small teams beat big teams in the past.”


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