Natcho confirmed out for crucial clashes

Blue-and-white eyes playoff berth heading into final qualifiers against Cyprus and Belgium

October 7, 2015 01:26
2 minute read.
The Israel national squad was in an upbeat mood yesterday at the Shefayim training complex as it beg

The Israel national squad was in an upbeat mood yesterday at the Shefayim training complex as it began its preparations for its final two Euro 2016 qualifiers.. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)

Israel coach Eli Gutman confirmed on Tuesday that he will have to manage without midfield anchor Bibras Natcho for the first time in the national team’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign this weekend, but he remains confident his squad can get the job done against Cyprus and Belgium in its final two matches.

Israel currently sits in third place in Group B with 13 points, two ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The team to finish in third place will secure a playoff berth.

Israel hosts Cyprus at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Saturday before visiting Belgium in Brussels three days later.

Natcho suffered a concussion in CSKA Moscow’s 2-0 win over Dynamo Moscow on Sunday, being taken off the pitch with a bloodied mouth in the 40th minute after a clash of heads with Dynamo’s Roman Zobnin.

The 27-year-old has started in all eight of Israel’s qualifiers to date, playing the full 90 minutes in seven of them.

Natcho hasn’t missed an official international match since 2011.

Gutman was hoping his former player at Hapoel Tel Aviv may be able to recover in time for the qualifiers, but was told by Natcho on Tuesday that he was ordered to rest for two weeks and isn’t even set to leave hospital until Thursday.

“Injuries are part of soccer,” said Gutman on Tuesday ahead of the team’s training session in Shefayim. “As a national team coach I have the advantage that I can call up another player instead. Every player in the squad deserves to be here and the most important thing is our team spirit. We are expecting a very tough match against Cyprus, but we will know how to cope with this challenge.”

Israel requires four points from its remaining two qualifiers to advance to the playoffs regardless of other results in the group.

However, while the national team will be confident of picking up three points against Cyprus at Teddy, it will be a firm underdog against Belgium in Brussels three days later in their final match of the campaign.

With Israel having the advantage of a two-point gap and the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Bosnians need to collect three more points than the blue-andwhite to finish in third.

Bosnia hosts Wales on Saturday before visiting Cyprus three days later.

Wales still needs one more point to qualify for its first major tournament since 1958 and will have plenty on the line against Bosnia, even though it will end the campaign with a home match against Andorra.

Should Israel record a better result than Bosnia on Saturday, it will wrap-up a playoff berth with one match to spare.

While Israel still has its fate in its own hands, the blue-and-white will cross its fingers Wales can do it a favor in Bosnia while it attempts to beat Cyprus.

After missing three games for Real Madrid with a calf injury, Wales superstar Gareth Bale returned to action for the league derby against Atletico on Sunday and is set to feature in Bosnia.

“If Gareth is fit to meet up with us I will look to play him in Bosnia. We need our strongest team on the pitch to get the result we need,” said Wales coach Chris Coleman. “We need a point from two games and we want to take care of our own business.”

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