kashtan 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Despite failing to lead Israel anywhere near Euro 2008 qualification, coach Dror Kashtan's contract will be extended and he will continue to guide the team in the next two years.
Less than 24 hours after suffering another disappointing defeat and losing any chance of qualifying for Euro 2008, Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon said on Sunday that Kashtan will guide the national team in its 2010 World Cup qualification campaign.
"Kashtan will continue to guide the team and that's final," Luzon said. "We were in a tough group. England and Croatia are much better sides than us. I'm pleased with the play of the youngsters. Israeli soccer has a future despite what its critics have been saying."
Israel was extremely disappointing in its last two qualifiers, losing 3-0 to England at Wembley and falling to a 1-0 defeat to Croatia on Saturday night.
The team is currently fourth in Group E with 17 points and faces Russia and Macedonia at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan in its final two qualifiers on November 17 and 21 respectively, with nothing to play for.
The blue-and-white faces Belarus at Ramat Gan in a friendly match on Wednesday to which entrance will be free of charge.
Israel captain Yossi Benayoun will not take any part in Wednesday's match after Kashtan approved Liverpool's request to allow the player to return to Merseyside immediately after the Croatia match.
"I asked to be released from the squad so that I can return to my club," Benayoun confirmed. "Our campaign is over, but I will continue to play for the national team whenever called upon."
One of the main talking points after Saturday's match was the clash between Benayoun and Tal Ben-Haim in the 78th minute.
Israel was awarded a free kick on the edge of the Croatia penalty area and Ben-Haim raced from defense demanding to take the shot.
Benayoun decided that substitute and debutant Moshe Ohayon would take the set-piece, angering the already fuming Ben-Haim.
"There are moments in a match when players lose control and get annoyed. I spoke to Ben-Haim and settled the matter," Benayoun said.
Luzon added: "I have no doubt that the coach will address this problem."
Besides Ohayon three more players made their debut on Saturday, with Maccabi Netanya's Tamir Cohen making the biggest impression.
"The result is disappointing, they didn't reach any real scoring opportunity," Cohen said on Sunday. "Our qualification story is over. We'll be watching Euro 2008 on television."
Reflecting on his performance, the midfielder added: "I had a decent match, but I must continue to work on my game. I need to prove that I deserve to be on the national team. We face Belarus on Wednesday and we hope to play a good match ahead of the game against Russia."
Maccabi Haifa defender Eyal Meshumar also made his debut against Croatia and like Cohen could well be starting for the side in the near future thanks to his solid performance.
"I felt excellent, but it's a shame we couldn't claim a point because we were on par with Croatia," Meshumar said. "They barely reached any scoring opportunities.
"I hope we play better in the future. We have good players and a united team. All that's left for us now is to play for our honor."