The Israel National Team gets back into 2022 World Cup qualifying action this weekend with a super important Saturday night clash against Scotland in Hampden Park.
Following the trip abroad, the squad will have a home contest on Tuesday in Beersheba versus Moldova as the blue-and-white look to keep its qualification hopes alive, currently sitting in third place in Group F with Denmark and the Tartan Army yet ahead.
A victory over Scotland would thrust head coach Willi Ruttensteiner’s charges into second place and give them a chance to head into the playoff round as the Danes have almost already wrapped up first place and automatic qualification to Qatar.
Israel enters this set of games after winning two of three matches in September and ahead of the final two group contests slated for November that will consist of a home game against Faroe Islands and a tough away tilt in Austria.
Ruttensteiner was content with the results from the last set of games and clearly stated what his and the team’s goals are for the Scotland match.
“After the three games in September, the team with hard work brought us to a very positive situation as we head to Scotland for a decisive game. Behind this is a process and some really good performances by the team. If Scotland wins the game, I think they will finish in second place as they are not likely to lose to Faroe Islands and Moldova.
“Our great goal must be to take points and if we want to go through we have to play at our best and take a win at Hampden Park. This is our goal and that is what we have worked on the past weeks. When we come together now, I told the players that we must work even harder.”
Israel’s Austrian bench boss spoke confidently in his team’s ability to meet the Scotland challenge in front of it, especially against a team with players who feature in arguably the best league in world and one that the blue-and-white has played to a 1-1 draw and to 0-0 after 120 minutes before falling on penalties in recent Nations League play.
The Israelis certainly feature a number of top-quality players in Eran Zahavi and Manor Solomon, but as Ruttensteiner explained, it’s a challenge to face a squad made up of players from the English Premier League.
“We must not have excuses and every player, coach and staff member must be at their best in this preparation. This is a real challenge and we want to take it. If we can win, I think that we will take the points against Faroe Islands and Moldova and have a big chance on the road against Austria.
“How can you win against a team of 11 Premier League players and some in the Championship? We must think of solutions and think of our game and not always discuss problems. I am a person who thinks of solutions. We have a lot of preparation time to give a good performance on Saturday against Scotland.”
One solution that Ruttensteiner will need to find is for his central defense, with a number of players out of action at that position due to injuries. The coach uses three center-backs and he is well aware of the issue that needs to be rectified as he may move one of his defensive midfielders, perhaps Dor Peretz who is playing for Venezia in Italy’s Serie A, to the back in order to keep the formation he has used since taking over the squad.
“We have injuries on central defense, but if I am now discussing my problems then that will be a mistake. We did a lot of analyzing and the players who we selected to be in the squad are ones that we believe in. We will find a solution, this is my responsibility. Defending also means the entire team and we can be strong and bring a good performance. The players know it’s possible to give a good performance in Scotland as we have in the past.
The National Team’s last match was a disastrous 5-0 defeat away at Denmark as the hosts ran wild over the Israeli contingent in a disappointing result after having dominated Austria at home and winning on the road at Faroe Islands on a rough synthetic pitch.
“We made terrible mistakes in Denmark and I want to apologize for that,” noted Ruttensteiner. “I will say many players had flown so much and we couldn’t match Denmark’s intensity. They were waiting for us at home and in good shape.
“We must be well prepared to not allow three set-piece goals as we did in Denmark and Scotland is very strong in the air on these types of set-pieces. We have to be well prepared with good principles and guidelines. Every player needs to be at his best and be clever if they are coming off the bench and not make mistakes in order to get a good result.”