Israel’s dejecting 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign mercifully comes to an end on Monday night when Spain visits Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem in a match which means very little for both sides for two very different reasons.
The blue-and-white knew it had no chance of progressing as soon as it was drawn in Group G with Spain and Italy, with only the winners of each group qualifying automatically for Russia 2018, while the eight best runners-up will play home-and-away playoffs.
After losing to Italy in its opener, Israel bounced back with three straight wins, including a 3-0 victory at Albania.
But the team’s performances were mediocre at best and matters quickly deteriorated.
The Israelis would drop to a record equaling four consecutive defeats and failed to score a goal in three straight matches. The skid began with a 4-1 thrashing in Spain in March and was followed by a 3-0 home loss to Albania and last month’s 1-0 defeats to Macedonia and Italy. It was finally snapped with a 1-0 win over Liechtenstein in Vaduz on Friday.
While Israel was playing for little more than pride from the midway point of its campaign, Spain has been ruthless from the start, picking up 25 of a possible 27 points so far.
Spain has won eight matches and drawn one while amassing a goal difference of 35-3.
Spain officially qualified for Russia with Friday’s 3-0 win over Albania and will deploy a second-string lineup in Teddy.
Israel coach Elisha Levy isn’t expected to make many changes to the team that beat Liechtenstein in what will in all likelihood be his final match at the helm.
“I’m proud of every moment I spent with the national team and I fully deserved to be handed this job,” said Levy on Sunday.