Israel views Belarus friendly as Portugal prep

Israel is in second place in Group F of the 2014 World Cup qualifier, with seven points from four matches.

Israeli national soccer team training 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Israeli national soccer team training 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Israel doesn’t play its next 2014 World Cup qualifier for another four months, but coach Eli Gutman still believes Wednesday night’s friendly against Belarus at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem will provide the national team with the platform to prepare for March’s showdown with Portugal.
Israel moved up to second place in Group F with seven points from four matches with two victories over Luxembourg last month, winning 6-0 on the road and 3-0 at home.
Gutman only made three changes to the squad ahead of Belarus, but Yossi Benayoun’s return to the team has been put on hold after he was injured in West Ham’s Premier League match on Sunday.
He joined Maor Melikson and Gili Vermut on the injury list, with Celtic’s Biram Kiyal and Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Omer Damari returning in their place.
Belarus has won one while losing three of its four qualifiers in Group I, but two of its defeats did come against powerhouses Spain and France and Gutman is expecting a stern test at Teddy.
“I’ve learned that in international matches there are very few similarities between any two games,” Gutman said on Tuesday.
“As a national team coach you never know what squad you will have for your next match, but we are entering this friendly with a game-plan which we hope to use against Portugal.”
Elsewhere, Neymar and Radamel Falcao, two of the world’s most prolific and sought-after strikers, come face-to-face when Brazil meet Colombia in the most enticing of around 50 friendly internationals being played on Wednesday.
Spain and Portugal both face marathon trips with the world and European champions traveling to Panama and their Iberian neighbors lured to oil-rich Gabon.
There are high-profile games between familiar European rivals, such as Netherlands-Germany, Italy-France and Sweden- England, and more exotic encounters such as the clash between Albania and Cameroon in Geneva.
Steven Gerrard is in line to make his 100th appearance for England while in other games, Franco Di Santo could make his international debut as Argentina and Lionel Messi visit Saudi Arabia while Russia meet the United States for the first time in 12 years.