So much for Israel making Euro 2012

Group-leader Greece blanks blue-and-white at Bloomfield; Fernandez & Co. all but out.

By
September 4, 2011 08:17
3 minute read.
Chelsea midfielder Yossi Benayoun

Benayoun 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Luis Fernandez has likely coached the national team on Israeli soil for the last time after Friday’s bitterly disappointing 1-0 defeat to Greece at Bloomfield Stadium essentially ended the blue-andwhite’s hopes of advancing to Euro 2012.

The Frenchman’s squad was brimming with confidence ahead of the match, with several of the players all but guaranteeing a victory against Greece.

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However, the Greeks proved on Friday why they are still undefeated in Group F, while Israel never really showed up, with Greece’s goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis not even making a single difficult save throughout the 90 minutes.

Israel’s defeat and Croatia’s 3-1 victory over Malta leave the national team in third position, although it now trails Greece and Croatia by four and three points, respectively.

The blue-and-white has also played one game more than the top two, and if it doesn’t defeat Croatia in Zagreb on Tuesday night, even the theoretical chance it currently still has will be over.

Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon has said several times in the past that Fernandez will not continue unless he guides the team to the European Championships, and with only the qualifiers in Croatia and in Malta on October 11 to come, it seems as though local fans have seen the last of the Frenchman.

Former Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman is the favorite to replace Fernandez when his contract runs out in November, but Luzon refused to comment on the issue ahead of the squad’s flight for Zagreb on Saturday evening.



“Like all of Israel I am also disappointed,” the IFA chairman said. “I had hoped and believed, like everyone, that we would beat Greece. I still think that Israel could have, and should have, won. We have good players and a good coach, but sadly this time it wasn’t good enough.

“I’ve been asked about the next coach since the end of the match, but I have always said that we will only make a decision when the campaign ends. We are facing a game in Croatia and we must focus on that.”

Israel was pathetic for most of Friday’s match, with the Greeks easily soaking up the blue-and-white’s pressure, never allowing the hosts to seriously threaten Sifakis’s goal.

The visitors waited patiently for their chance and they made the most of it in the 60th minute, when Biram Kiyal lost possession in the center of the field and Sotiris Ninis sliced the Israel defense single- handedly before slotting the ball into the bottom left corner with an accurate effort from the edge of the area.

The national team never really came close to equalizing, but Fernandez believes there are still some positives to take from his disastrous reign.

“Our chances to finish in second place are very small, but we need to look at other things other than the results,” he said in an interview to the IFA website on Saturday.

“We are going through a rebuilding process and we have a lot of young and new players who have shown a lot of potential and quality.

“When I joined the team we were ranked at around number 50 in the world and now we are at No. 30. We have made progress.”

At least Israel captain Yossi Benayoun was as candid as ever.

“We believed we could win,” the new Arsenal signing said. “But we didn’t move the ball well from the start of the match and there’s no hiding from the truth – we failed big time.

“We’re just not good enough at the moment.

“We haven’t reached a major tournament in 40 years and hopefully the next generation of players will be better.”

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