Kashtan says Israel will be ready to face UK

Israel coach Dror Kashtan said Monday he was confident his team would be ready to face the likes of England and Croatia in qualifying for the 2008 European Championship, despite it missing out on a place at this year's World Cup. "I am not afraid of challenges," Kashtan said, six days after his appointment was confirmed. "I am filled with adrenaline and willpower to face this challenge and the level of expectations - to guide Israel to its first major achievement in 36 years." The 61-year-old Kashtan said he will see out his contract at Hapoel Tel Aviv until the end of the season and take over from Avraham Grant in June. Grant guided Israel unbeaten through its World Cup qualifying group, but too many drawn games meant France and Switzerland edged it into third place. Last week's European Championship qualifying draw put Israel up against Andorra, Croatia, England, Estonia, Macedonia and Russia. Kashtan will attend a February 23 meeting in Croatia to decide the fixture list. "(The draw) presents us with new challenges against attractive teams, both on the professional level and in terms of spectator interest, where our fans will be able to see players of the highest caliber in Europe," Kashtan said. Israel played England, the group's highest-ranked team, three times in friendlies during the 1980s but has never met it in a qualifying campaign. Israel lost once and drew once against England.