Israel coach Eli Gutman said on Tuesday that he plans to use Wednesday night’s friendly match against Finland in Netanya as a dress rehearsal for March’s crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier against Portugal.
Gutman revealed he will test on Wednesday the lineup and formation he currently plans to implement in the showdown with the Portuguese at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on March 22.
Israel moved up to second place in Group F ahead of Portugal on goal difference with two emphatic victories over the weak Luxembourg in October, but it will have little chance of a top-two finish should it fail to win its next qualifier against Cristiano Ronaldo and friends.
Israel will be without injured goalkeeper Dudu Aouate on Wednesday, but Gutman has otherwise got a full squad at his disposal, which does not include Chelsea midfielder Yossi Benayoun, who was not called up due to the limited minutes he has played in recent months.
“The team that will play against Finland will also play against Portugal, with a few possible minor changes,” Gutman said on Wednesday. “We will also play with the same formation we will use against the Portuguese.”
Betar Jerusalem’s Avi Rikan is expected to be handed his national team debut on Wednesday, with Eden Ben- Basat and Tomer Hemed likely to be given an opportunity to continue their productive partnership up-front.
Tal Ben-Haim will return to the heart of the team’s defense for the first time since September’s 4- 0 thrashing at the hands of Russia after joining Premier League club Queens Park Rangers.
“I accepted the fact I wasn’t called up when I didn’t have a team, but now I’m back playing and want to give my all to the national team,” said Ben-Haim.
“My only concern at the moment is to defeat Finland and after that we’ll turn our focus to Portugal.”
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