Gutman hopes for friendlier result in final tune-up

After losing all 3 friendly matches, Israel hopes for confidence boosting performance when it faces Hungary.

LIOR RAFAELOV 370 (photo credit: Israel Football Association website)
(photo credit: Israel Football Association website)
After losing in all three of its friendly matches since new coach Eli Gutman took charge last December, Israel will be hoping for a confidence boosting performance when it faces Hungary in Budapest on Wednesday night in its final warm-up encounter before it gets its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign underway next month.
Israel lost its first match under Gutman in February, falling 3-2 to Ukraine, and dropped to a 2- 1 setback to the Czech Republic in May before being beaten 2-0 by Germany six days later.
“It is important for us to stop the losing streak,” said Israel goalkeeper Dudu Aouate.
“We want to play well before the important match against Azerbaijan and we are confident in our abilities.
“We want the fans in Israel to be proud of us.”
Israel’s displays under Gutman’s stewardship have been erratic at best, but the coach understands that he will be judged only according to the team’s results in its qualifying campaign, starting with the road match at Azerbaijan on September 7.
However, with Wednesday’s match being the dress rehearsal for Israel’s qualifying opener in three-and-a-half weeks, Gutman is expected to test out the starting lineup he currently plans to use in Azerbaijan and will be looking for a significant improvement from the side’s previous showings.
Captain Yossi Benayoun was conspicuously missing from the starting lineup in training ahead of the match, but that may be just because Gutman wanted to try out different players.
Gutman’s biggest dilemma will be who to play in the center of defense where he will be looking for a solid combination in the absence of Tal Ben-Haim, who is suspended from the match against Azerbaijan.
New Maccabi Tel Aviv signing Eitan Tibi seems to be guaranteed one of the spots in the heart of the defense, with Dan Mori and Shir Tzedek battling for the place alongside him.
Gutman will also need to determine if he plans to face Azerbaijan with two strikers or one, with either Omer Damari to start up front beside Itay Shechter or Gili Vermut to bolster Israel’s attacking options from the midfield which will include Lior Rafaelov and Maor Melikson.