Israeli soccer star Eden Ben-Basat 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel coach Eli Gutman admitted on Monday that he still doesn’t know if he will be handed a contract extension.
The national team will host Northern Ireland at National Stadium in Ramat Gan in its final 2014 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night and will end Group F in third place regardless of the day’s results.
Friday’s surprise 1-1 draw against Portugal in Lisbon significantly improved Gutman’s chances of remaining at the helm, and capping the campaign with another encouraging result versus Northern Ireland could all but end the speculation regarding his future.
“I hope we can set the tempo and end the campaign with a victory,” said Gutman. “I will not begin to sum up this campaign until it is officially over. I told the players that they need to win the match for Israeli soccer, not for me.”
Gutman is set to make several changes from the lineup that held Portugal on Friday and will likely only start with one defensive midfielder, meaning either Shiran Yeini or Maharan Radi will have to settle for a substitute’s role.
The attacking Lior Rafaelov and Maor Melikson are the favorites to benefit from Gutman’s decision to employ a more offensive formation in the hope of ending the campaign with an impressive win.
One player who is certain to start, barring injury, is Eden Ben-Basat.
By scoring Israel’s dramatic equalizer in Lisbon, the Toulouse striker became the first blue-and-white player in history to find the back of the net in five consecutive qualifiers.
“We returned from Portugal with a smile,” said Ben-Basat, before once more throwing his support behind Gutman. “As players we are not supposed to discuss such matters, but I always say the truth and I think Gutman should continue.”