Ruttensteiner holds court after busy run

Blue-and-white coach discusses National Team’s recent performances, coronavirus concerns and more.

SINCE STEPPING down from the front office to the pitch in July, former Israel technical director and current head coach has brought stability – if not the most stellar results – to the National Team during a tough international stretch of matches. (photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
SINCE STEPPING down from the front office to the pitch in July, former Israel technical director and current head coach has brought stability – if not the most stellar results – to the National Team during a tough international stretch of matches.
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
Israel National Team head coach Willi Ruttensteiner held a press conference to wrap up the three games that the blue-and-white played over the past week.
The bench boss reflected on the two Nations League clashes, a 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 thrilling win at Slovakia, while also indicating that he needs a goalkeeper that can win games.  
The 57-year-old Austrian also spoke about the solid play of Eyal Golasa, Eran Zahavi contracting COVID-19 and the European Championship Playoff defeat on penalties in Glasgow against Scotland.
“We didn’t reach our great goal to go to the final in November and play Serbia. It was very disappointing for all of us, but I was very satisfied with the 120 minutes that we played. We had chances and so did Scotland, both sides could have gone through.
“When you get to penalties it is what it is, but we all lost together as a team. The day after, it was my work and my motivation to rebuild the team as they were very down following the game. The expectations were very high and it was very tough to then have to play a Nations League game against the Czech Republic.”
Ruttensteiner then shifted gears to preparing the squad to play in the Nations League contests after the thoroughly disappointing defeat.
“Our second goal was to stay in Level B in the Nations League. It was difficult to prepare for the Czech Republic game and they played very well over the first 30 minutes by overloading on the sides which made it difficult for us to react. We tried to correct those issues at halftime and we can be proud of our team in the second half, but we couldn’t score two goals. It was possible but we just couldn't do it.”
The Slovakia contest started off the wrong foot as well before Israel turned things around.
“The third game in Slovakia we had a rough first half giving up two goals, but the mentality of the team was impressive as they never gave up and that is something to build on for the future. We were two goals down at halftime but the reaction was impressive to go into the final half of football in the third game in a row.
“We created a number of chances and had plenty of opportunities. Zahavi showed great personality as did Manor Solomon and Monas Dabbur as well as the players who came off the bench. We are playing against top teams and to play this playing style gives me hope for the future.”
The Nations League games in November will be critical for Israel and the blue-and-white is also looking to set up a friendly as well.
“We can reach our goal of staying in League B, but we have very tough games with Scotland and Czech Republic. We are in discussions with Norway to play a friendly ahead of the two upcoming Nations League games. We are coming nearer to this level and all three games were open as we played on the level of all of those teams. This is a good development process for our national team.”
The Austrian coach knows that one of Israel’s weak points was in goal as Ofir Marciano not only didn’t stop any penalties in the Scotland shootout, but gave up a number of poor markers in the following two games.
“When you analyze world-class teams, you always have an above average goalkeeper and that is a key point of a top team. It was the right decision to trust him and give him self-confidence by starting him after Scotland. But we also need a ’keeper that can win games for us and over the next few weeks we will observe the options in Israel and abroad. But he played this weekend and he didn’t give up a goal.”
Golasa is a player who had not featured for the Israel National Team for some time and impressed on the pitch.
“I think his performance was very good and he hasn’t had a simple time over the past few years. It was a great performance and I was very satisfied. Not only with his defense, but also by creating goals and he was dangerous to score by himself. In training as well he had an excellent attitude.”
Over the weekend, Zahavi was diagnosed with COVID-19 after he returned to his club team in Holland, PSV Eindhoven.
“I wish Eran Zahavi good health and I am a bit irritated about the situation. He said that he hoped he didn’t infect anyone else as he is always thinking about others. He has a great attitude and he’s a great goal-scorer. He told me he feels good and he is in no pain and has no real symptoms. Hopefully he will be back as soon as possible and I am sure PSV will do the utmost to get him well.”
There were a number of players who contacted coronavirus while with the team, including Nir Bitton, Hatem Elhamed and Loai Taha, but Ruttensteiner feels that the medical staff did the best it could under trying circumstances.
“The doctors did an amazing job with the National Team in testing before traveling and once we arrived in Scotland as well as before all of the matches.
We went above and beyond what other countries have been doing and we know that there is always a risk to contract the virus. Traveling, staying together and playing always puts one at risk, but we did everything that we needed to do and more. The infected players were isolated immediately once there were positive tests.”
A disturbing story that came out of the Israel camp this week that the team’s performance physiologist, Markus Rogan, broke quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 and flew back to his homeland of Austria. Ruttensteiner referenced the episode and where it currently stands.
“This was a terrible mistake by Markus Rogan and his behavior was unacceptable. We can’t judge him yet as it’s still early, but we will sit together and discuss the consequences. He has to take the responsibility for his behavior.”
Finally, with Ruttensteiner in the position of caretaker coach with the National Team over the past few months after the departure of Andi Herzog, it is still unclear if he will continue in the role into 2021.
“We will look at this in December and will base the decision on what has happened over the past few months. It is a great honor for me to be a coach of these players and I am giving the most that I can to them and the team.”