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Despite seeing Israel lose any hope of reaching next summer's World Cup following a humiliating 1-0 home loss to Latvia on Saturday, Israel Football Association (IFA) chairman Avi Luzon announced on Sunday that he has no intention of firing coach Dror Kashtan.
The national team's defeat to Latvia was one of the most embarrassing in Israeli soccer history, and was also the second time it has lost a qualifier at home in Kashtan's three years at the helm. Prior to Kashtan's appointment, it took the team 12 years and six campaigns to register two defeats at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
"I'm disappointed with the result against Latvia and with the outcome of the entire campaign," Luzon said in a press release, refusing to speak to the media.
"I still think we were drawn into a comfortable group from which we could have achieved our goal of reaching the World Cup, but unfortunately we failed."
Luzon went on to confirm that even though Kashtan will get to complete his contract, which runs until next summer, the search for his replacement is about to get underway.
"The IFA respects the contracts it signs and therefore Dror Kashtan will end the campaign," said Luzon, who was optimistic to a fault throughout the campaign, claiming time and again that Israel will qualify for the World Cup. "At the beginning of 2010 we will begin to think about appointing the next Israel coach.
"I would like to apologize to the fans who attended the match last night and to the ones who watched it on TV. They proved they love the national team and that the side belongs to the Israeli people and to the State of Israel.
"I feel the fans' disappointment when I meet them in the street and I hope that in the future we can achieve what we all wish for and bring a little happiness to the State of Israel."
Understandably, Israel's players and staff were in an especially downcast mood at Sunday's training session. Yaniv Katan was released from the squad with an injury complaint and so was his Maccabi Haifa teammate Dekel Keinan, who is suspended for Wednesday's meaningless qualifier against Luxembourg.
Of the players who did train, only midfielder Gal Alberman agreed to speak to the media. "The players are disappointed and we don't have much to say," Alberman said.
"We have no excuses. We are responsible for the way we played. We failed in the money time and could not get the job done in the critical matches. The relatively easy draw just increases the disappointment. We have let ourselves and the entire nation down."
Next week, Kashtan and Luzon will have to explain their failure in the Knesset after MK Zvulun Orlev, chairman of the Education, Culture and Sports Committee, called a special meeting to discuss the national team's "disgraceful" loss.
"We must see how we can change the current situation," Orlev said. "We haven't reached a World Cup in 40 years and that must change."
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