Israel striker Munas Dabbur (center) attempts a shot during last night’s international friendly against Serbia in Novi Sad in which Eran Zahavi.
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
The Elisha Levy era got off to a losing start on Tuesday night, with the Israel national team dropping to a 3-1 defeat to Serbia in Novi Sad in an international friendly.
While 24 teams across the continent are making their final preparations for Euro 2016, which gets under way next Friday, for Israel and Serbia Tuesday’s match was the start of their build up to World Cup 2018 qualification.
Israel’s first World Cup qualifier will be against Italy on September 5 and Levy has got plenty to work on after the disappointing start to his tenure.
Serbia took the lead in the 33rd minute through Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic after Israel goalkeeper Dudu Goresh, making his international debut at the age of 36, fumbled the ball in the air.
Eran Zahavi, serving as captain for the first time, equalized for Israel from the penalty spot in the 49th minute, but Nemanja Milunovic’s header in the 74th minute and Dusan Tadic’s long-distance strike 13 minutes later meant Levy’s debut ended in defeat.
After the dejection of missing out on a place in the European Championships in France and the subsequent departure of coach Eli Gutman, Levy was brought in to rebuild the side ahead of Euro 2020.
Israel’s hopes of reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1970 were already all but dashed after being paired with former World Cup winners Spain and Italy in qualifying Group G. Only the winners of each group will qualify automatically, with the eight best runners-up to advance to home-and-away playoffs. Israel will also face Albania, Macedonia and Liechtenstein, and the main target facing Levy will be to build a side capable of challenging for a place in Euro 2020.
Goresh gifted the hosts the opener on Tuesday when he couldn’t collect the ball after being challenged in the air by Ivanovic who then scored while on the ground.
Levy introduced Ben Sahar in place of Munas Dabbur at the break and the Beersheba striker needed just four minutes to make an impact. He was toppled over in the box and Zahavi converted the spot kick.
However, Milunovic scored on his 27th birthday in the 74th minute and Tadic put the icing on the cake for the Serbs.