Fernandez makes Israel debut minus stars Benayoun, Ben-Haim

Match will be first and foremost an opportunity for some of the team’s lesser names to make an impression on Israel’s new French boss.

Breaking news (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Breaking news
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Luis Fernandez will guide Israel for the first time on Wednesday night when the national team faces Uruguay in an international friendly in Montevideo.
With Israel not opening its Euro 2012 qualifying campaign until September 3 against Malta, it is hard to see much importance to the team’s encounter at the Estadio Centenario, which also hosted the World Cup final in 1930.
Captain Yossi Benayoun and defensive anchor Tal Ben-Haim were both released from the squad to rest their tired and aching bodies after a long season in Europe.
That means that Wednesday’s match, as well as Sunday’s friendly in Chile, will be first and foremost an opportunity for some of the team’s lesser names to make an impression on Israel’s new French boss.
“Even though we have all been through a very long season it is always fun to come and play for the national team,” said Genk striker Elyaniv Barda. “There is a great atmosphere around the team and Luis and assistant coach Tal Banin have both gelled with the players very quickly. I hope we can begin their tenure with a good result.”
Another player who will likely get his chance to show his worth is midfielder Bibras Natcho.
“We have come to South America for our first test under the new coaches,” said Natcho, who plays for Russia’s Rubin Kazan.
“I hope we can play well in both friendlies so that we enter the Malta match in the best form possible.”
Owners extend point-halving format
In other Israeli soccer news, the Israel Football Association voted toextend the Premier League’s disputed new format for another season onTuesday.
Despite all the criticism, only seven of the 31 IFA board members inattendance voted against the format, which sees point totals cut inhalf and the league split into three sections after 30 matches.
The representatives of Maccabi Haifa, Betar Jerusalem, Maccabi Tel Avivand Maccabi Netanya were among those who voted against the decision,but the rest of the Premier League delegates backed the format,including Hapoel Tel Aviv, which would have not taken the championshiphad its deficit from Haifa not been sliced.