Analysis: Shell-shocked Israel must lift itself off the mat for Belgium challenge

Israel began to pick up the pieces from the crushing blow it was dealt by Wales.

March 30, 2015 10:50
2 minute read.
Eli Gutman

Israel National team coach Eli Gutman. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

The Israel national team will hope a change of scenery will also result in a change in fortune, with the blue-and-white holding its first training session at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Sunday evening ahead of Tuesday’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Belgium in the capital.

Israel began to pick up the pieces from the crushing blow it was dealt by Wales at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa on Saturday night, being outplayed by Gareth Bale and company on the way a 3-0 defeat.

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The humbling loss ended the national team’s perfect start to its Group B campaign and gave coach Eli Gutman plenty to mull over. Gutman is expected to ring the changes for the showdown with Belgium, with top-scorer Omer Damari to miss the match with a groin injury he picked up on Saturday and defender Eitan Tibi suspended after being sent off against Wales.

Tomer Hemed, who came in for Damari just before halftime, is expected to start in his place on Tuesday, with Ben Sahar set to replace winger Tal Ben-Haim.

Gent defender Rami Gershon will likely fill the void left by Tibi, but another option Gutman might consider is shifting Orel Dgani to the center of the defense the way he did following Tibi’s red card and starting with Sheran Yeini at right back.

Gutman is crossing his fingers Nir Biton will be fit enough to replace Yeini in the center of the field, with Biram Kayal also in contention for a starting role.

“We will regroup,” promised a shell-shocked Gutman after Saturday’s defeat. “Even had we won we wouldn’t have secured our progress and the loss doesn’t mean our campaign is over. This group is open and we need to lift our heads as soon as possible. We are facing one of the best team’s in the world on Tuesday.”

The blue-and-white reaches the halfway mark of its campaign with the match against group-favorite Belgium, which thrashed Cyprus 5-0 on Saturday.

Marouane Fellaini struck twice as Belgium moved within three points of leader Wales and one point of Israel.

Belgium, which reached the quarterfinals of last year’s World Cup, took the lead through Manchester United midfielder Fellaini midway through the first half, with Christian Benteke making it 2-0 in the 35th minute before Fellaini (66), Eden Hazard (68) and debutant Michy Batshuayi (80) completed the demolition.

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