The Israeli national team players during a squad training session earlier in the week..
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Israel’s Under-21 national team’s chance of qualifying for the 2011 European Championships suffered a heavy blow on Friday afternoon with a 1-0 home defeat to Sweden.
The result put the Swedes top of Group 6, level on points with second-placed Montenegro and three points ahead of third-placed Israel, with a game in hand on both.
Israel will now have to win both its remaining games, away to Sweden and at home against Montenegro, to have a chance of qualifying for a playoff.
Despite creating a number of good chances in front of a packed house of
3,000 fans at Ness Ziona on Friday, Moti Ivanir’s side was unable to
convert and fell to Denni Avdic’s 58th minute header.
“It was a pity. We played well and we created lots of chances but we missed them. And that is soccer,” said Ivanir.
“We did everything we could to equalize. At the end of the day we had
bad luck. This is a team of winners. We wanted to win. To play well and
to lose is very disappointing.”
Even though Israel has two games left in the qualifying campaign,
Saturday’s match was expected to Ivanir’s last in charge as his
contract runs out at the end of June.
IFA Chairman Avi Luzon is believed to have already decided to replace
Ivanir with his nephew, former Bnei Yehuda coach Guy Luzon, who quit
the team from south Tel Aviv at the end of the season.
The result was far from indicative of Israel’s dominance over Tommy Söderberg’s side throughout the 90 minutes.
The Swedes forced a pointblank save from Betar Jerusalem goalie Ariel Harush after Emir Bajrami had shot from close range.
But after that it was all Israel.
Espanyol striker Ben Sahar was the greatest scoring threat, hitting the post twice.
The first opportunity came in the 34th minute when he turned deftly in
the center of the park and powered forward before unleashing a stinging
left-footed shot which beat Swedish goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt but
rattled the upright.
Half an hour before the end, Sahar rounded the ’keeper and placed the
ball from a tight angle, only to see it hit the right-hand post once
again. Eyal Golasa smashed one in from the rebound but Nordfeldt
produced an excellent fingertip save.
The goal had come two minutes earlier, Avdic heading past Harush after finding himself unmarked unmarked in the box.
“We are very disappointed,” Golasa concluded. “They had one chance and they scored. What can you do?”