MAOR MELIKSON 370.
(photo credit:ebastien Pirlet/Reuters)
After finally claiming his first victory as Israel coach in the seventh time of
asking, Eli Gutman is confident of making it two wins in four days when the
national team hosts Luxembourg at National Stadium in Ramat Gan in 2014 World
Cup qualifying on Tuesday evening.
Gutman experienced an agonizing first
10 months to his tenure, with Israel losing three times and drawing once in four
friendly matches under his stewardship before drawing 1-1 at Azerbaijan in its
Group F opener and suffering a humbling 4-0 home thrashing against
There was even talk that Gutman would resign, but the coach
rejected any such notion and breathed a huge sigh of relief when his side
crushed Luxembourg 6-0 on Friday to kickstart its campaign.
for a first World Cup since 1970 remains extremely unlikely, but another
convincing victory on Tuesday will instill some much-needed confidence ahead of
Israel’s next real test, the home match against Portugal on March 22.
were pleased with the result and our performance for much of the match in
Luxembourg,” Gutman said at the blue-and-white’s training complex in Shefayim on
“I enjoyed seeing the players implant what we worked on in
training. However, we know that we face a completely different match on
Gutman defended his declaration from the start of the campaign
that Israel’s goal is to reach the World Cup, saying: “without expectations and
challenges what’s the point of life?”
He also added that Israeli soccer fans
should come out to support the side on Tuesday because “what else have they got
besides the national team?”
Luxembourg got its qualifying campaign off to a
promising start by its standards before being hammered by Israel, stretching
Portugal’s nerves before falling to a 2-1 defeat and recording a surprise 1-1
draw at Northern Ireland.
Coach Luc Holtz was optimistic his side can
bounce back from the 6-0 drubbing.
“Israel played really well and
surprised us on the break,” Holtz said on Monday.
“It certainly wasn’t
our day and I’m hoping for a better day on Tuesday and that we’ll achieve our
goal of beating Israel.”
Gutman is expected to make no more than two
changes to the team that started in Friday’s win, with Yoav Ziv set to replace
the injured Gal Shish at left-back and Dekel Keinan challenging Eitan Tibi for
the place alongside Dan Mori in the center of defense.
Gutman will not
make any changes up front, hoping Tomer Hemed and Eden Ben-Basat can build on
the prolific start to their partnership, with Hemed netting a hat-trick in
Luxembourg and Ben- Basat scoring once.
“I waited for my chance and I
made the most of it when I finally got it,” said Ben-Basat, who made his debut
in the match against Russia and has already scored three goals this season for
his French club Brest.
“I hope we can continue this way. They
will be more focused after losing 6-0, but we will be ready. I hope we
can play with the same determination and commitment because we have to win this
In the absence of Yossi Benayoun, goalkeeper Dudu Aouate will
captain the side once more on Tuesday.
“The defeat to Russia stunned
us. We came to that match feeling good but received a wake-up call,”
“The players learned from that and we did our job in
Luxembourg and I hope we do it again on Tuesday.”
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