Hapoel Beersheba forward Michael Ohana is hoping to make his debut for the senior national team in Albania on Saturday after being called up for the first time by coach Elisha Levy..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
The Israel national team began its preparations for Saturday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Albania at the Shefayim training complex on Monday, with coach Elisha Levy making 10 changes to the squad that beat Macedonia and Liechtenstein last month.
Levy has insisted from the start of his tenure earlier this year that his decision regarding who to call up to the squad will be based almost solely on form.
He remained true to his word while also injecting some youth into the roster.
Maccabi Haifa’s 20-year-old goalkeeper Omri Glazer and 21-year-old’s David Keltjens from Beitar Jerusalem and Michael Ohana from Hapoel Beersheba could all make their debuts, with the squad also including Haifa’s 20-year-old midfielder Neta Lavi, who has one cap for the blueand- white from the friendly against Serbia in May.
Levy also recalled left-back Taleb Tawatha and striker Eliran Atar, whose last appearance for the national team was back in February 2013.
Atar fell out with previous coach Eli Gutman last March, with the striker claiming Gutman didn’t treat him fairly and honestly. The Israel Football Association labeled Atar as a hypocrite in its response.
Among the notable absentees are Munas Dabbur, Kenny Sayef and defender Tal Ben-Haim, but of the players who started against Macedonia and Liechtenstein there are only two who are missing from the squad, the injured Eyal Golasa and Ofir Davidzada, who has struggled to earn playing time at Gent in Belgium.
Israel has six points from three matches, losing its opener against Italy 3-1 before defeating Macedonia and Liechtenstein 2-1. The blue-and-white has been far from impressive in its campaign to date and was fortunate to beat one of the weakest European sides in Lichtenstein in its most recent match, avoiding what would have been one of the most humbling results in its history.
Israel also needed a 95th-minute penalty save from goalkeeper Dudu Goresh to defeat Macedonia in Skopje.
Israel’s visit to Albania will likely go a long way to determining which team finishes in third place, assuming powerhouses Italy and Spain claim the top two spots as expected.
Only the winners of each group will qualify automatically for Russia 2018, with the eight best runners-up to advance to home-and-away playoffs.
Albania is tied with Israel on six points, beating Macedonia 2-1 and Liechtenstein 2-0 before losing 2-0 to Spain. Italy and Spain lead the group with seven points each.