Israel faces must-win as Georgia visits Bloomfield

Coach Luis Fernandez knows anything short of 3 points will mean the national team’s already slim hopes of reaching the European Championships will be as good as over.

Kiyal 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kilger)
Kiyal 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kilger)
A new air of optimism has swept through the Israel squad since Saturday night, but the 2- 1 victory over Latvia in Euro 2012 qualification will be of little significance should the national team fail to defeat Georgia at Bloomfield Stadium on Tuesday.
Biram Kiyal’s 81st minute header gave Israel an important win against the Latvians, leaving the blue-and-white in fourth place in the standings, but just four points back of first-placed Greece after Georgia complicated Group F with a surprising 1-0 victory over favorite Croatia on Saturday.
Georgia enters Tuesday’s encounter in excellent position after also managing a draw in Greece, but Israel coach Luis Fernandez knows that anything short of three points will mean the national team’s already slim hopes of reaching the European Championships will be as good as over.
“We aren’t far from the top two in the group, but to challenge for a place in Euro 2012 we will have to beat Georgia,” the Frenchman said. “Winning doesn’t necessarily mean taking chances. It means playing smart soccer and this team can do that.”
Fernandez claimed on Saturday that Israel will be the underdog against Georgia at Bloomfield, and reiterated that stance on Monday.
“Georgia recorded an amazing result on Saturday and I always thought that we would face a difficult match against them,” said Fernandez, who added that Israel’s 0-0 draw in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in September was underrated by critics.
“Some people think that Georgia is a weak team, but after watching their match against Croatia I think that they might be the best team in the group. A side that draws in Greece and beats Croatia has to be a good team. They are unbeaten in their last 10 matches, which proves that they have a lot of qualities.
“They are not Brazil, but they have an effective system and know how to defend and how to attack. They never give up.”
Fernandez spent much of Monday’s press conference attacking the media, particularly one story published in Monday’s Yediot Ahronot, which claimed that defender Dekel Keinan had criticized the Frenchman for not playing him on Saturday.
“You are trying to hurt the team,” Fernandez told the journalists before Keinan entered the room to make a surprise appearance.
“There are people who are trying to hurt me,” Keinan said.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I would never say such things. Whoever writes these types of articles is looking to hurt the team. This is an ugly attempt to try and create antagonism towards the team.”
Fernandez said that he will only choose his starting 11 on Tuesday, but he is expected to make several changes from the team that beat Latvia.
One player who will certainly not be in action is the injured Omer Damari, while Maor Buzaglo, Danny Bondarv, Almog Cohen and Keinan are all in the frame for a place in the starting 11.
“We knew we would have to take six points from these two qualifiers, and after completing half the job we now have to beat Georgia,” said goalkeeper Dudu Aouate, who will once more captain the side in the absence of Yossi Benayoun, who will begin the match on the bench. “This will be a tougher match than Saturday, but we have to win it if we want to remain in contention to reach Euro 2012.”