Disheartening 4-0 home loss to Russia puts blue-and-white World Cup chances on life support.
By ALLON SINAI
With its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign just five days old, Israel can already turn its attention to the Euro 2016 qualifiers after being humbled 4-0 by Russia at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Tuesday night.The sad result, Israel’s heaviest defeat since losing 5-0 to Denmark 13 years ago, capped a miserable first two qualifiers in which the blue-and-white collected just a single point, drawing 1-1 in its opener at Azerbaijan on Friday.The national team has still got eight more qualifiers to play in Group F, but you would have to be living on Mars or completely out of your mind to think that there is any chance the blue-and-white can reach the World Cup in Brazil after the last week.Israel didn’t even deserve the one point it picked up so far, looking desperately disjointed and completely clueless in both Baku and Ramat Gan.A new air of optimism engulfed the national team following the appointment of Eli Gutman as coach at the start of the year.But his tenure to date has been utterly dejecting, with the team drawing one and losing three of its friendly matches before the disappointments of recent days.The sorriest part of all is that there seems to be little hope for the future.AdvertisementThe expectations may have been unrealistic to start with, but Israel’s play has been so poor that even next month’s two qualifiers against Luxembourg over five days are beginning to seem like a daunting prospect.“We played a wonderful opponent,” Gutman said. “The players did their best, but Russia is a better team than us, although 4-0 is a harsh result.“We were ready for both the matches, but the criticism was correct. My influence on the team is still not apparent. There are no bright spots from this match.”The encounter was over almost before it began.A foul by Tal Ben-Haim, who hasn’t had a team since the end of last season, gifted the visitors a free kick on the edge of the area in the sixth minute and Alexander Kerzhakov stepped up to slot the ball beyond a helpless Dudu Aouate.Israel failed to muster any sort of reply and the Russians doubled their advantage after 18 minutes.Ben-Haim and Yoav Ziv crashed into each other in the center of the box in an attempt to clear the danger and Alexander Kokorin stepped up to tuck in the the ball into the back of the net.Gutman made a double substitution at halftime, but Russia still scored at will, with Kerzhakov heading in his second goal of the night in the 64th minute from a superb cross by Viktor Fayzulin.The humiliation was completed in the 77th minute when Fayzulin got in on the act, queuing a mass exodus by the 30,000 brave souls who came to Ramat Gan with so many hopes only to once more return home heartbroken by their hapless national team.
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