Israel to 'host' Andorra in Holland

The Andorrans have lost all 19 of their previous European championships qualifiers and have only two professional players in their squad.

israeli soccer 88 (photo credit: )
israeli soccer 88
(photo credit: )
Israel plays its second Euro 2008 qualifier on Wednesday night when it hosts European minnows Andorra in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The national team is coming off a 1-0 win against Estonia in Tallinn on Saturday and will be extremely confident of maintaining its perfect record. The Andorrans have lost all 19 of their previous European championships qualifiers and have only two professional players in their squad. "I don't underestimate any team and I don't like questions that imply that we take the Andorrans lightly," Israel coach Dror Kashtan said at a press conference Tuesday. "I respect every team we play. We won on Saturday and got our first three points. We are coming as favorites on Wednesday and that is the danger." Despite beating Estonia, Israel's performance was very disappointing. The team only won thanks to Roberto Colautti's goal in the 7th minute and goalkeeper's Dudu Awat's double save in the last minute of the match. "The game was difficult. We scored an early goal and then we had to defend," Israel captain Yossi Benayoun said after Saturday's match. "This was not our best game, but Colautti proved he is a great striker and Awat played very well." Israel has got the perfect opportunity to put Saturday's troubles behind it when it comes up against the Andorrans. The team that represents a country of 67,000 people lost to England 5-0 on Saturday, a score that Kashtan will be happy to replicate. "Andorra plays a very defensive game and that will make our life difficult," Kashtan said Tuesday. "We need to try and improve with every match we play. Sometimes the things that seem easy are actually difficult and I don't recommend that anybody assumes that we have got the three points in our pockets." Benayoun is also not taking the Andorrans lightly. "We all know that the gaps between the teams in Europe are constantly closing, and who are we to underestimate Andorra, we're not such a big team," he said. "We need to come focused and concentrated and do everything we can to win." The lineup is expected to have one change from the 11 that opened against Estonia, with Betar Jerusalem player Gal Alberman due to replace his club teammate Michael Zandberg in the midfield. Wednesday's game is the national team's first "home" game of the campaign and the first time it is being affected by UEFA's decision to ban European matches from Israel. "The reality is that we need to host our matches here and we accept that reluctantly," Kashtan said. "The match should be played in Israel. It is calm in the North, in the center and in the South. This is a wrong decision by UEFA. I hope and believe that our next match will be played in Israel." Benayoun wasn't interested in looking for an excuse ahead of the match and was very clear of the team's goal on Wednesday. "We don't need to talk any more about the match not being played in Israel," he said. "We need to come and take all the points. I'll settle for 1-0 right now." On TV: Israelis Andorra (8:00 p.m. on Channel 1).