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