Maccabi Haifa goalkeeper Omri Glazer is fighting for a place in Israel’s starting lineup in Saturday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Macedonia in Haifa. .
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
The Israel national team continued on Wednesday its preparations for the resumption of its 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign against Macedonia in Haifa, with coach Elisha Levy already set on most of his starting lineup for Saturday’s match.
Israel is coming off two straight defeats, dropping to fourth place on goal difference in Group G following June’s 3-0 loss at home to Albania. A failure to defeat Macedonia would seriously harm the team’s chances in its battle with Albania for a third-place finish, with the blue-and-white also bracing itself for a visit to Italy next Tuesday.
Italy and Spain, which faceoff at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid on Saturday, lead the group with a seven-point gap over Albania and Israel. The team in first place will secure an automatic berth in the World Cup in Russia, while the best second placed teams will advance to the playoffs.
Other than winning, Israel will also hope to register an improved performance against Macedonia and finally give local disenchanted fans something to cheer about.
Levy has yet to decide regarding his starting goalkeeper, with Maccabi Haifa’s Omri Glazer and Ariel Harush, who is playing for Anorthosis Famagusta in Cyprus this season, competing for the No. 1 jersey. Levy does seem set on his defensive line though, with Tal Ben-Haim and Shir Tzedek to start in the center of the back four, while Ofir Davidzada and Ben Bitton will play on the flanks. Almog Cohen and Bibras Natcho look certain to start in midfield, with Eran Zahavi and winger Tal Ben- Haim to fill two of the attacking roles. Tomer Hemed is expected to play up front, leaving Levy with only one real dilemma. Levy will need to decide whether to opt for a more defensive formation and use Dan Einbinder in the center of the field or go with a more attacking player of the likes of Lior Refaelov and Maor Melikson.
“The defeat to Albania was really hard to take,” said Almog Cohen on Wednesday.
“We are facing a crucial game and we know what a difference its result could make. We want to regain our pride. We were experiencing a good campaign until the last game against Albania. We can’t afford to play like that again. It is time for us to show that we have changed. That we have come to give our all, for us and for the fans.”
The loss 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 three days before it hosts Spain at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem in its final qualifier.