Int'l soccer: Israel confident ahead of Belarus friendly

Toto Tamuz aiming to carry on scoring in last national team game before England clash.

tamuz toto 224 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
tamuz toto 224 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel faces Belarus on Wednesday night in its final friendly match before the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against England on September 8. The national team, which is currently joint top of Group E, tied on 17 points with Croatia, will be looking to shake off more than two months of rust at the Dinamo Stadium in Minsk. Israel, which defeated Andorra 2-0 in its last match on June 6, has won its last three qualifiers, a feat that hasn't been achieved by the blue-and-white in over 10 years. Following the match at Wembley the team faces Croatia in its final road match of the campaign on October 13 and will conclude the qualifiers at home against Russia and Macedonia on November 17 and November 21 respectively. Coach Dror Kashtan will have to manage without four of his squad members on Wednesday, with Arik Benado, Yaniv Katan, Pini Balili and Eyal Meshumar all pulling out through injury. Striker Ben Sahar, who is recovering from an appendicitis operation, wasn't even called-up to the squad and is also a doubt for the game against England. "This is the beginning of the season and players are getting injured, from the Israel and England teams," Kashtan said. "The match against Belarus will give us some indication of our form. They have a new German coach and this is a good warm-up match for us." Bernd Stange was named as the new coach of Belarus three weeks ago following the resignation of Yuri Puntus, who picked up just seven points in seven qualifiers. Belarus is currently in fifth position in its Euro 2008 qualifying group, winning two, drawing one and losing four of its matches to date. Most of the Belarus squad members play for clubs in the former Soviet states and the star of the Belarus team is Arsenal midfielder Aleksandr Hleb. Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool), Tal Ben-Haim (Chelsea), Dudu Awat (Deportivo La Coruna), Roberto Colautti (Bourussia Monchengladbach) and Salim Touma (Standard Liege) flew directly to Belarus and have only trained with the team once ahead the match. Toto Tamuz, who scored Betar Jerusalem's first league goal of the season on Sunday night, was confident of translating his league form to the international stage. "Belarus is a worthy opponent and we can't underestimate them," Tamuz said. "I hope I can continue my good form with the national team. We have a big match against England next month and we will prepare properly and be ready for the game at Wembley." Tamuz's Betar Jerusalem teammate Idan Tal said: "Our aim is play well on Wednesday. It's important we play a solid match before the England game. Everybody expects England to beat us and that could be to our advantage. Our main goal at Wembley will be to keep a clean sheet."