Israel national team coach Elisha levy .
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After falling to fourth place in 2018 World Cup qualifying Groug G on the back of two straight resounding defeats, the Israel national team hosts Macedonia in Haifa on Saturday night in a match that could go a long way to deciding the future of coach Elisha Levy.
After combining three consecutive wins, including a road win over main rival Albania, the blue-and-white was been brought back down to earth in painful fashion.
The 4-1 loss in Spain came as a surprise to no one, but the 3-0 home humbling at the hands of Albania in its most recent qualifier in June raised serious question marks regarding the direction in which the team is heading under Levy.
That result saw Albania move ahead of Israel on goal difference, with the teams tied on nine points.
Spain and Italy, which face-off at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid on Saturday, lead the group with 16 points each. The team in first place will qualify for the World Cup in Russia, while the eight best runners-up will advance to the playoffs.
The sides which finish in both third and fourth place will be eliminated, but for Israel and Levy that one place could make all the difference in how the campaign is remembered.
Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini said after the defeat to Spain in March that Levy will continue to guide the side for at least one more campaign. However, Levy’s current contract only runs until the end of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign and he has yet to be offered an extension.
Eini is believed to be waiting to see how the side does over its next two matches before handing Levy a new deal that will see he Euro 2020 qualifiers.
“The defeat to Albania was very disappointing, but it doesn’t represent our entire campaign,” said Levy. “We didn’t play well in that match and we have plenty to learn from it. We now have a chance to regain the trust of the fans. They want to see a committed team that gives its all, the way we did in many games in this campaign, but not against Albania.”
Levy insisted he isn’t thinking about his own future.
“Ofer Eini is a man of his word,” noted Levy. “I’m working and doing my best and in my opinion a national team coach should be given two campaigns. But at the moment I’m focused on our matches and we will talk about this at the end of the campaign.”
The loss to Albania in June marked the start of the second half of Israel’s qualifying campaign. After playing Macedonia and Italy, Israel will complete its campaign in October, going to Liechtenstein on October 6 and hosting Spain at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem in its final qualifier three days later.
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