Kashtan leaves Katan off squad for qualifier against Croatia

With or without Katan, the side will need to do well in its first Euro 2008 qualifier to be played in Israel.

Dror Kashtan 224.88 (photo credit: )
Dror Kashtan 224.88
(photo credit: )
Israel's national soccer team officially began its preparations for the Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia next week with a training session at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan Tuesday evening. The 24-man squad, minus the five Israeli players who play overseas and will only join the side next week, will continue to train with coach Dror Kashtan over the next seven days leading up to the Euro qualifier on November 15. The squad trained Tuesday without one notable player. Maccabi Haifa forward Yaniv Katan was not called up to the match. "Katan was not called up to the squad for professional reasons," Kashtan said at a press conference Tuesday. "The national team is above all else, and I expect any player to turn up whenever he's called to the squad." Katan failed to join the national team a month ago for its Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia because of an injury. However, only days later he played for his club side, a move that extremely angered Kashtan. With or without Katan, the side will need to do well in its first Euro 2008 qualifier to be played in Israel. "Croatia is the strongest side in the group," Kashtan said. "The entire country is behind us, but we are expecting a very difficult match. I don't prepare the team for draws or loses. I prepare the side for one thing only - winning." Maccabi Herzliya fires Reuven Atar Meanwhile, Reuven Atar was fired as head coach of Maccabi Herzliya on Tuesday, effective immediately, after only seven games at the helm. The team has managed to collect only five league points. The development hardly came as a surprise, as club owner Arye Sheiman has replaced 15 coaches in seven seasons. Atar, who previously coached Maccabi Netanya, was hired at the start of the season after Fredi David resigned. "Reuven Atar has finished his job here," club spokesman Beni Baklo said in a press statement. "We thank him for his service and wish him luck in the future. The sides did not see eye-to-eye on various issues, which led to the decision to terminate the coach's contract at the club." Atar is considered to be one of Israel's greatest all-time players. He led Maccabi Haifa to historic championships in the early 1990s, with the pinnacle being the stoppage-time winner against France in Paris. The talented playmaker also played for Betar Jerusalem and Hapoel Petah Tikva toward the end of his career. "The team's form is improving," Atar told reporters. "The timing has surely surprised me, as we showed lots of improvement in recent weeks. I wish the team luck in keeping up the good work." Fredi David, Nir Levin and Ton Caanen reportedly are candidates to replace Atar.