Israel faces Honduras in international friendly

Blue-and-white set to play warm up at Citi Field after Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan.

June 2, 2013 05:02
2 minute read.
Israel National football team captain Yossi Benayoun (left) and Coach Eli Gutman

Yossi Benayoun(left) and Coach Eli Gutman370. (photo credit: IFA, Courtesy)

Israel coach Eli Gutman is set to hand several of his fringe players a rare starting role when the national team faces Honduras in an international friendly in Citi Field in New York on Sunday night.

The blue-and-white is currently in second place in Group F of 2014 World Cup qualifying and doesn’t play its next qualifier until September 6 when it hosts Azerbaijan, three days before visiting Russia.

With key players Eden Ben-Basat, Bibras Natcho, Biram Kiyal, Maharan Radi, Dudu Aouate and Tomer Hemed, who could miss up to eight months after injuring his Achilles heal last week, all being left off the squad for various reasons, the likes of Beitar Jerusalem goalkeeper Ariel Harush and striker Itay Shechter are set to get their chance in the stadium that usually serves as the home of the MLB’s New York Mets.

The New York region is home to the largest Jewish and Honduran populations outside of Israel and Honduras.

More than 1.5 million Jews reside in New York City, Long Island and Westchester, tens of thousands of them Israeli, while almost 100,000 Hondurans live in the NY Metro area.

The match will take place shortly after the Celebrate Israel Parade along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

“It happened by coincidence,” Pierre Mevy Azaria, CEO of MCI Sport who is organizing the match, told the local 5 towns Jewish Times.

“We decided almost one year ago to meet our public in the United States.

Because of the growing interest in soccer throughout the United States, we felt it was the right time to bring a soccer match to New York. The game will be a good chance to show a non-political side of life in Israel. This is something that is good for Israel’s image.”

Honduras, which qualified for the 2010 World Cup, is guided by coach Luis Fernando Suárez and is led by the likes of Wilson Palacios of Stoke City of the English Premier League and Roger Espinoza of Wigan Athletic. Honduras lost 2-0 to Panama in its most recent World Cup qualifier on March 26 in Panama City and hosts Costa Rica five days after playing Israel.

With Aouate remaining in Spain to play in RCD Mallorca’s final La Liga match on Saturday and Danny Amos missing out through injury, Harush will be given a chance to prove himself in goal.

“Harush has great potential that should have already been realized,” said Gutman. “We still have Aouate, but Harush will get his chance on Sunday and I trust him.”

Gutman confirmed that captain Yossi Benayoun will also play a part on Sunday, bringing him within a single appearance of equaling Arik Benado’s national team record of 94.

“It is very special for us to be playing in New York,” Benayoun said. “We want to take whatever we can from this match because we face very important qualifiers in September and October.

There will be a lot of people from the Jewish community here and we are also committed to them.

 On TV: Israel vs Honduras (live on Sport5 at 12:30 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning)

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