Pair of ultra-crucial qualifiers coming up for Israel

Fernandez: We won three complicated matches and now we need to beat Greece and record a good result against Croatia.

August 26, 2011 07:33
1 minute read.
Luis Fernandez

Luis Fernandez311. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

In-form strikers Eliran Atar and Toto Tamuz were left off of the Israel squad once more on Thursday, when coach Luis Fernandez named his 25- man roster for the national team’s upcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers against Greece and Croatia.

Israel faces Greece in a must-win match at Bloomfield Stadium next Friday before visiting Croatia in Zagreb four days later.

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Both Atar and Tamuz have been in scintillating form for Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv, respectively, in recent weeks, but Fernandez is pleased with the forwards he’s used in the last few qualifiers and is far more concerned with his team’s defense, handing Maccabi Netanya centerback Omri Ben-Harush and Hapoel Tel Aviv right-back Iyad Khutaba their first call-ups on Thursday.

“I have plenty of offensive weapons, but we need to continue to work on our defensive play,” Fernandez said on Thursday.

“We won three complicated matches and now we need to beat Greece and record a good result against Croatia.”

Three straight wins have seen Israel climb to third position in Euro 2012 qualifying Group F with 13 points from seven matches.

The blue-and-white is tied on points with Croatia and trails Greece by just a single point.

However, with the Croats and Greeks playing one match fewer than the national team, Israel will have to pick up at least four of a possible six points from its upcoming qualifiers to have a chance of finishing among the top two ahead of its final match against Malta on October 11.

“Greece is top of the group and has yet to lose a qualifier. This will be a very difficult match,” Fernandez said. “We then visit Croatia, which for me is the best team in the group.

“We had to win the last three qualifiers to keep our hopes alive and we are now back in the race for a top-two finish.”

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