Lior Eliyahu 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
As if the shortcomings shown by Israel on court in its two disparaging defeats
to Montenegro and Estonia in the EuroBasket 2013 qualification weren’t bad
enough, the national team’s players have spent the last few days cowardly
pinning the blame on each other for the blue-and-white’s 0- 2 start to the
While the seven-point loss at Montenegro was no disaster, even
though the national team squandered an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter,
the home defeat to Estonia on Saturday could prove to be the first nail in the
coffin of Israel’s hopes of qualifying for an 11th straight European
Israel held a comfortable 13-point halftime margin in
Rishon Lezion before allowing the mediocre Estonians back into the game,
essentially gifting the visitors the win with careless defense and selfish play
The national team’s two consecutive defeats to start the
10-game campaign mean it can no longer afford any more slip-ups, starting with
Tuesday’s game at Iceland.
However, Israel will first need to overcome
the infighting in the roster which reared its ugly head following the loss to
One player, refusing to be named, claimed after the defeat that
“some players on this team have too much ego” and “some players don’t speak to
their teammates nicely”.
The main target of that criticism was Omri
Casspi and the Cleveland Cavs forward answered back in typical fashion ahead of
the team’s departure for Iceland.
“It was obvious that some players would
begin to criticize their teammates because that always happens after a defeat,”
“Ego problems? That isn’t the reason the Estonians scored 50
points in one half.
“We are playing lazy defense and rebounding
“There are too many players who are talking and too many players
who aren’t listening to the coach.
“They should be working
Nevertheless, Casspi is confident the blue-and-white can turn
matters around with victories over Iceland tonight and Slovakia on
“I know what potential this team has,” he said. “Our fate is
still in our hands.”
Forward Lior Eliyahu insisted that the national team
shouldn’t be washing its dirty laundry in public, but one of the biggest rifts
in the roster is believed to be between the Maccabi Tel Aviv player and
“I sat with Lior and we spoke throughout the flight,” said
Casspi, who also denied reports in the US that he is set to leave the
“We used to be best friends and we are still friends now and will
remain friends after this.
“There are no divisions in the roster and I
can’t understand why people are trying to create false disputes.”
person responsible for refocusing the players and ensuring they are ready to get
their campaign up and running with a win in Iceland is coach Arik Shivek and he
is confident any differences will be forgotten with a victory on
“Iceland has a very similar style to Estonia and they gave
Serbia a tough time,” Shivek warned.
“The defeat to Estonia was like a
knife to the heart and people took it really badly.
“We need to claim a
win to release some pressure and gain some confidence.
As soon as we win
no one will care about any off-court issues.”