Blue-and-white gets Bosnia prep underway

Israel coach Eli gutman   (photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Israel coach Eli gutman
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Israel coach Eli Gutman insisted on Tuesday that the national team will settle for nothing less than three points when it hosts Bosnia in Euro 2016 qualification at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa on Sunday.
The Israel squad assembled on Tuesday for its first training session ahead of the showdown with Bosnia, with the match at the 30,000 seater stadium already sold out.
The blue-and-white is hoping to build on its encouraging start to the campaign after picking up six of a possible six points from its first two qualifiers against Cyprus and Andorra.
Bosnia, on the other hand, has got just two points from three qualifiers.
“The matches against Cyprus and Andorra are in the past and all I care about at the moment is the preparations for Bosnia,” said Gutman. “I’m also not thinking beyond this match.
We are doing everything we can to beat Bosnia and that is our goal.”
Bosnia will be without several key players on Sunday, including star striker Edin Dzeko. That prompted coach Safet Susic to claim that he will be “playing for a draw because we have no hope of winning without him.”
Gutman dismissed Susic’s deprecating comment as psychological warfare.
“We know what our goal is,” said Gutman. “We are focusing on this game and won’t allow anything to disrupt us, not the fact that our opponent is missing a player or that there will be 30,000 fans behind us.”
Besides Dzeko, Bosnia could also be without goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Begovic was injured during Stoke City’s 2-1 Premier League win at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and was hopeful he would recover in time for the crunch qualifier.
“I played through the pain after taking a knock in the groin in the first half against Tottenham and I will know more about my condition in a day or two, but there is a good chance I will be fit,” he said.
Begovic’s absence would be another blow to Bosnia’s hopes of getting its campaign back on track after draws with Wales and Belgium which followed a shock home defeat by Cyprus.
Dzeko has been sidelined for three weeks with a calf injury while midfielder Tino Sven Susic and Avdija Vrsajevic were also ruled out after arriving at the team’s Zenica training camp.
Striker Vedad Ibisevic, midfielder Sejad Salihovic and defender Sead Kolasinac are long-term absentees, meaning under-fire coach Susic will have to field a makeshift side with wingers Edin Visca and Izet Hajrovic likely to play up front.
Reuters contributed to this report.