Israel cautiously nervous prior to Luxembourg duel

So desperate is the national team that even the World Cup qualifier at Luxembourg is being regarded as a daunting prospect.

October 12, 2012 02:38
2 minute read.
ISRAEL COACH Eli Gutman, Yossi Abuksis

ISRAEL COACH Eli Gutman, Yossi Abuksis 370. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)


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So desperate is the Israel national team’s situation at the moment that even Friday’s 2014 World Cup qualifier at Luxembourg is being regarded as a daunting prospect.

Luxembourg has certainly shown progress in recent years, winning one match in each of its last three qualifying campaigns after going five consecutive campaigns without picking up a single point, losing 56 straight qualifiers at one stage.

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Luxembourg has also already made its mark in the current campaign, stretching Portugal’s nerves before falling to a 2-1 defeat and recording a surprise 1-1 draw at Northern Ireland.

However, it is Israel’s dismal performances in its first two qualifiers that make Luxembourg a real threat for the blue-and-white.

The 1-1 draw at Azerbaijan and especially the 4-0 home humbling at the hands of Russia did not only end any meager hope Israel had of reaching a first major tournament since 1970, but also shattered the team’s confidence to such an extent that matches which were once a foregone conclusion now seem like an uphill battle.

“We are taking our opponent very seriously,” said Gutman.

“Luxembourg plays with a 4-3- 3 formation and has an excellent midfielder in Ben Payal, with the striker Aurelien Joachim also a real handful.”

Only five of Luxembourg’s players are full professionals and Gutman clearly understands that there will be no excuse for a failure on Friday.

“We need to move the ball patiently and make sure we pressure our opponent,” he explained. “The most important thing is that our play will be methodical and not coincidental.”

Following the disappointing start to the campaign, Gutman decided to overhaul his squad ahead of the two matches against Luxembourg, with the blue-and-white to host the group minnows next Tuesday.

Gutman decided to only call up players who appear regularly for their club sides, meaning captain Yossi Benayoun (West Ham United), Tal Ben-Haim (without a club), Itay Shechter (Swansea City), Ben Sahar (Hertha Berlin) and Almog Cohen (Nuremberg) were all axed.

Nevertheless, new captain Dudu Aouate is confident that those who will play on Friday are more than good enough to get the job done.

“We don’t take any opponent lightly and our goal is to look like a team and win,” he said. “However, there is no reason to be getting stressed about this match. “We disappointed everyone at the start of the campaign, but I believe that things will get a lot better from here on.”

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