(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel national soccer team coach Dror Kashtan continued to fine-tune his lineup at Wednesday's training session at National Stadium in Ramat Gan ahead of Saturday's Euro 2008 qualifier against England.
Dudu Awat is certain to start in goal, with Tal Ben-Haim and Shimon Gershon virtually guaranteed a position in central defense. Yoav Ziv and Yuval Shpungin are expected to start in left and right back, respectively. The biggest question mark will be in midfield and attack, where Kashtan has yet to finalize the starting lineup.
Yaniv Katan is out of contention and will definitely not play after failing to recover from the rib injury he sustained in Maccabi Haifa's match against Hapoel Tel Aviv on Sunday.
Kashtan tried out defender Arik Benado in the defensive midfielder's position on Wednesday, hoping the veteran will be the right man to fill the role the suspended Idan Tal would usually play.
"I hope I play," Benado said on Wednesday. "I've played as a central defender for my entire career and the defensive midfielder's position isn't my natural role, but sometimes there's no choice.
"I played in this position in the friendly match against Ukraine and at Betar as well; if the coach asks me to play in this role, I'll have no problem doing so.
"We're coming into this match with the aim of winning it. A loss could end our hopes of qualifying from this group."
Another player who is still uncertain what part he will play in Saturday's match is Benado's Beter Jerusalem teammate Gal Alberman.
The midfielder is hopeful he'll play alongside Benado and Walid Badier in the center of the midfield and was confident that the side can win against any opponent.
"The players want to win every match regardless of the coaches' tactics," Alberman said. "The coach will decide if we play defensive or offensive, but however we play, we want to get a good result."
Captain Yossi Benayoun will definitely start in the attacking midfielder's position, but Kashtan was still unsure who will play alongside the influential playmaker up front. The coach was undecided whether to play Ben Sahar or Toto Tamuz in the striker's position and was still mulling over the winger's role that will likely be filled by Elyaniv Barda or Amit Ben-Shushan.
Awat, who will start in goal as long as he remains fit, is looking forward to playing the English and thinks the blue-and-white have a good chance of winning on Saturday. "Even though we are playing one of the biggest teams in Europe, with players of the highest level, we can win," he said.
"We feel we have a good chance in this match. I don't think the English will underestimate us and we ignore any such comments made by them ahead of the match."