The Israelis are clear favorites against the European minnows and will be expecting to claim a third straight win.
By ALLON SINAI
Israel must defeat Andorra on Wednesday night to keep its slim chance of advancing to Euro 2008 alive.
The Israelis are clear favorites against the European minnows and will be expecting to claim a third straight win in the qualifying campaign, a feat that hasn't been achieved by the national team for more than 10 years.
Andorra has lost all six of its Euro 2008 qualifiers to date, conceding 26 goals and scoring just one.
However, coach Dror Kashtan was his usual cautious self on Tuesday, worried that complacency could cost his team dearly. "This is a type of match that looks very easy, but could become difficult very quickly," said Kashtan, who is concerned that the flooded pitch at Estadi Comunal could play into Andorran hands.
"The conditions at the stadium are not ideal and that will be an advantage for the Andorrans. The conditions suit their defensive play, but we must claim all three points nevertheless."
Kashtan looked back at his opponent's performances earlier in the campaign to prove his point.
"I watched Andorra's match against England and saw the difficulties the English had in scoring a goal. Andorra always defends in similar fashion, but they're a very organized side and we'll have to work very hard to win."
Andorra, which lost 4-0 to Russia on Saturday, will be boosted by the return to the lineup of five players which missed the match at the weekend through suspension.
"Our lineup against Israel will be a competitive one," said coach David Rodrigo, who will have to manage on Wednesday without suspended midfielders Manolo Jim nez and Marc Pujol.
"I know the Israeli team from our first meeting in the qualifiers and I'm aware that they're superior to us.
"However, Israel usually defends and counter attacks and on Wednesday they will have to create chances and dictate the play. The state of the pitch will help us and we will also benefit from the return of some of our better players."
Yossi Benayoun, who was suspended from Israel's 2-1 victory over Macedonia on Saturday, will be back in the starting lineup and will captain the side once again.
Dudu Awat will start in goal once more, with Arik Benado and Yoav Zin retaining their positions in defense.
Yuval Shpungin and Dekel Keinan, who returned to Israel to join the Under-21 squad ahead of the European championship, will likely be replaced in the starting 11 by Maccabi Netanya left-back Dedi Ben-Dayan and Maccabi Tel Aviv defender Avi Yehiel.
Benayoun is expected to take Pini Balili's place in the lineup, with Gal Alberman, Walid Badier, Idan Tal, Barak Itzhaki and Roberto Colautti expected to start for a second straight time for the blue-and-white.
"The pitch is small and is in bad condition, but we're coming here to do a job and get the win," Benayoun said on Tuesday. "I know the Andorrans are a resilient side, but we need the three points."
In Tuesday's pre-match press conference Benayoun was also asked if his incident with coach Rodrigo in Israel's 4-1 victory over Andorra last year will have any effect on Wednesday's match.
After September's qualifier the Israel captain claimed that Rodrigo had shouted at him during the match and said, "You're a country of murderers. You're criminals. You fire rockets at civilians and kill children." On Tuesday, Benayoun said he had put the incident behind him. "I've forgotten about it, there will be no problem between me and Rodrigo," the West Ham United player insisted. "I'm concentrating on the match and on how to win it."
Rodrigo refused to answer when being asked about the incident and would only say, "the match against Israel will be very difficult."
On TV: Andorra vs Israel (live on Channel 1
at 7 p.m.).
var cont = `Stay Informed
As the war against Hamas unfolds, our unwavering newsroom remains committed to covering Israel's most profound crisis.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real-time news and in-depth analysis from our top reporters.