Soccer - Euro 2008: England grateful for Israel favor

Britons well happy after Israel beats Russia 2-1.

Israel soccer 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel soccer 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The Israel national team was the toast of England on Sunday after its 2-1 victory over Russia on Saturday. England will qualify for Euro 2008 should it win or draw against Croatia on Wednesday, thanks to Omer Golan's winner in stoppage time at National Stadium in Ramat Gan. "I'd like to pay tribute to Israel for the professional way they went about the job - they showed what a proud nation they are and deserve a lot of praise for their efforts," said England manager Steve McClaren, who likely would have been sacked had the Russians won. "I've said several times over the past few weeks that the campaign was never over until it was over, and that I always believed it would come down to the Croatia match - thankfully it has. "I watched the match with my family at the team hotel in Watford. All the coaching staff was also in the hotel, and as you can imagine we're all delighted qualification is back in our own hands. However, what's really important now is that we get the job done on Wednesday night," McClaren said. Visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also expressed his gratitude to the national team for its upset victory over Russia. "I want to say thank you very very much to the Israeli football team," he said at a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "Now every Englishman is cheering the Israeli nation for their great service to help us." England midfielder Steven Gerrard, who will lead his side on Wednesday, said he couldn't wait for the match to begin. "We have been given another chance to qualify and that has to motivate every player on Wednesday evening," he said. "If we don't get there it will be so frustrating, and we have to make sure we have the right mentality on Wednesday." "To be in a situation where it's been out of our hands, and you are relying on other people, is not a situation you want to be in, and not a situation we should have been in," Gerrard added. Croatia manager Slaven Bilic said his team would not be playing for a draw on Wednesday, despite having already qualified for the European Championships. "Nobody is a favorite when they play away against England, so we would be happy for a point," he said. "A point at Wembley is always a good result, but you can't play for a draw. "It is a big match. It is every player's dream to play at Wembley and we will do everything we can to represent our country in the best possible way. We are coming to Wembley to play a serious game. We are going to play our normal game and we are going to try to keep the English players far from our goal, but that is easier said than done," Bilic said. The under-fire McClaren expressed confidence that his team would get the point it needs to progress to the championships in Austria and Switzerland. "I know we've made things difficult for ourselves by dropping points early on in the group," he said, "but we have played a lot better during the second half of the campaign and I've got every confidence the players will do the job at Wembley. "It will be a difficult game, but I'm convinced we will get the result we need and will qualify for Austria and Switzerland." AP contributed to this report.