Israel will head into its final World Cup qualification match on Monday night against Faroe Islands with the goal of maintaining third place in Group F.
After having fallen to Austria in Klagenfurt on Friday by the score of 4-2 on the strength of a Louis Schaub brace, coupled with Scotland’s 2-0 win at Moldova, the blue-and-white was officially eliminated from Qatar 2022 contention.
Head coach Willi Ruttensteiner’s squad, which is now level on 13 points with Austria, will now turn its focus on staying ahead of “Das Team” in the standings – Israel currently holds a better goal differential – in order to help its Nations League and world ranking.
While the Israelis will host Faroe Islands at the Netanya Stadium, the Austrians will welcome last-place Moldova as they will try to leapfrog Ruttensteiner’s team, which will be without star striker Eran Zahavi.
The Israel superstar needed to be substituted out of Friday night’s matchup midway through the second half after suffering a knee injury that will keep him out of action for four weeks.
The blue-and-white entered the Austria contest with the hopes of keeping its slim World Cup qualification hopes alive as Ruttensteiner’s crew needed a win away from home to have any thoughts of finding a way into the group’s second place and a playoff slot.
The last time the two squads faced one another, Israel held the upper hand with a 5-2 win in September at Sammy Ofer Stadium and it looked to duplicate that result in Austria in front of a very sparse crowd.
“I don’t have any answers as to what happened with our defense,” Ruttensteiner lamented following the defeat. “We had an excellent first half and I said to the guys at halftime that if we correct some of our mistakes that we could win this game with five or six goals.
“But I don’t know what occurred to us. It’s difficult for me to find the reasons and if I did know why then I would be able to correct them. We showed character in the second half and took a 2-1 lead, but too many errors on our part in the second half did us in.”
Manor Solomon also reflected on the crushing defeat.
"This was very tough and it wasn’t the first time that this has happened to us. This has occurred so many times. We wanted to hold onto the lead and not go backward, but that was not the case as they tied up the game. We didn’t know how to defend properly and keep the result. We were such a mess on the field and we are very disappointed.”
Solomon then commented on the importance of the Faroe Islands duel.
“Monday’s game will be a battle,” he continued. “First of all, we need to win and it won’t be that simple to do so even though we won the last game 4-0. It wasn’t easy and they caused us many problems. We have a goal advantage over Austria and we have to win in order to keep third place.”
Israel’s keeper Ofir Marciano also spoke about the significance of the qualifying finale.
“We want to finish group play in third place so we have plenty to play for. We always want to give 100% for the national team and everyone dreams of playing for Israel. Every game with the national team is important.”
For Austria, the win over Israel was a big bounce back.
“It’s a great feeling as we deserved this win and it was important for a number of reasons,” Real Madrid’s David Alaba said. “We didn’t forget about the 5-2 loss from the first game at Sammy Ofer Stadium and this was an open issue for us. We had a disappointing campaign so this win was a good step.”
Israel captain Bibras Natcho was subbed off early on Friday night due to an injury, but that didn’t stop Israel from taking a 1-0 lead on Nir Bitton’s free kick that deflected off of an Austrian defender and into Daniel Bachmann goal in the 32nd minute.
With the blue-and-white’s confidence sky high heading into the second half, defender Sun Menacham tripped up Philipp Lienhart in the box handing Franco Foda’s squad a penalty, which Marko Arnautovic promptly put behind Marciano to draw even at 1-1 in the 50th minute.
However, the Israeli players didn’t hang their heads for long as Shakhtar Donetsk starlet Solomon lofted a corner kick into the Austria area that Italian Serie A midfielder Dor Peretz promptly headed into the goal for a 2-1 advantage in the 59th minute.
But the visitors didn’t hold onto the lead for long as substitute Schaub’s strike into the corner of Marciano’s goal from 15 meters out knotted up the score at 2-2 with roughly half an hour of match time remaining.
Ten minutes later it was Schaub once again who scored to thrust Austria into the lead while Marcel Sabitzer added an 84th-minute insurance goal to wrap up the 4-2 victory and spell an end to Israel’s Qatar dreams.