national team 298.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
National soccer team coach Dror Kashtan on Tuesday afternoon announced his 24-man squad for the team's upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against England and Estonia.
Israel hosts England at the sold-out National Stadium in Ramat Gan next Saturday, and plays Estonia at the same venue four days later.
Betar Jerusalem forward Toto Tamuz was recalled to the squad after deciding to accept his temporary residency status on Monday, and is one of seven changes made by Kashtan from the squad that was chosen to face Ukraine in an international friendly exactly five weeks ago.
Maccabi Haifa goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch was also recalled after missing the national team's latest match because of a row with Kashtan, but the biggest surprise was the snubbing of Betar midfielder Michael Zandberg.
The 26-year-old Zandberg, who has been a fixture in the Israel squad for the last couple of years, has led Jerusalem to the top of the Premier League standings.
Zandberg was surprised at being left out, but not bitter. "I love playing for the national team and I would very much like to be in the squad," he said Tuesday, but "I respect the coach's decision and will remain the national team's number one fan."
Despite Zandberg's absence, top-of-the-table Betar still leads all clubs with seven players in the national squad. Second placed Hapoel Tel Aviv has six men in the squad, including defender Danny Bonder, who was called up to the squad for the first time on Tuesday, and veteran Yigal Antebi who makes a surprise return to the blue-and-white.
Bolton midfielder Idan Tal and Maccabi Haifa striker Roberto Colautti are both suspended for the England match, but were called up nevertheless to train with the team ahead of the match against Estonia.
Chelsea striker Ben Sahar, who became Israel's youngest-ever international when he made his debut against Ukraine last month at the age of 17 years and 181 days, was named in the squad once again and will likely come up against English teammates John Terry and Frank Lampard.
Israel is tied for third place in Group E with England and Macedonia. It has seven points, three fewer than leader Croatia. The top two teams from each group advance automatically to the European Championships.
Israel squad: Goalkeepers: Dudu Awat (Deportivo La Coruna), Nir Davidovitch (Maccabi Haifa), Shavit Elimelech (Hapoel Tel Aviv).
Defenders: Tal Ben Haim (Bolton Wanderers), Arik Benado, Shimon Gershon, Yoav Ziv, Tomer Ben Yossef (Betar Jerusalem), Yuval Shpungin (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Yigal Antebi, Danny Bonder (Hapoel Tel Aviv).
Midfielders & Forwards: Yossi Benayoun (West Ham Utd), Walid Badier, Salim Toama, Elyaniv Barda (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Gal Alberman, Amit Ben Shushan, Toto Tamuz (Betar Jerusalem), Yaniv Katan (Maccabi Haifa), Omer Golan(Maccabi Petah Tikva), Pini Balili (Sivaspor), Ben Sahar (Chelsea), Idan Tal, Roberto Colautti (Maccabi Haifa).
Herzliya advances to Toto Cup final
Maccabi Herzliya defeated Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 2-0 at the municipal stadium in Rishon Lezion on Tuesday evening and booked its place in the final of the Toto Cup.
The Toto Cup is the least sought-after piece of silverware in Israeli soccer and is usually a low priority for the top sides, which tend to field second-rate teams in the competition.
Nevertheless, the competition is a pleasant distraction for relegation-battling Herzliya and also ensures the small club a NIS 300,000 bonus for reaching the title game.
Yohai Aharoni gave Maccabi the lead in the 30th minute in a poor first half. Herzliya was down to 10 men in the 65th minute after David Biduk received his second yellow card, and Hakoah began to push for an equalizer.
Ramat Gan couldn't capitalize on its one-man advantage and in stoppage time Omer Buksenboim ensured Herzliya's victory with a second goal.
The second semifinal will be played in Herzliya on Wednesday when Betar Jerusalem faces Hapoel Kfar Saba.