Israel football fans have something to look forward to and the credit has to go to the players who graced the Osijek pitch tonight against Croatia. But not only do the players get credit for their fearless display in a 2:0 loss, but interim it as some say caretaker manager Alon Hazan also deserves a ton of kudos for his efforts over the last few days.
Naming Celtic stud Nir Bitton as captain for this evening’s match was a stroke of brilliance as the midfielder showed exactly why he has climbed the ladder of success in Europe and not only looked but acted like a leader from the first second he walked into the field for the National anthems. His first action was to take off his warmup jacket and drape it over the child he walked out with who was just wearing a short sleeve jersey. He then directed the rest of the Israel team to do the same.
Croatia then followed Bitton’s example. He is a leader in the making and hopefully the captain for years to come. But the credit again goes back to Hazan for this fantastic decision. Hazan could have taken the easy road and named Yossi Benayoun, the player we all expected to be a handed the captain’s armband. But no. He bucked the trend, big time.
Next was handing Ben Biton and Taleb Tawhatha as the starters at left and right back. Young, yes. But boy what a lesson they got tonight against the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and Madio Mandzukic.
Roie Kehat who is plugin his trade in Austria was another surprise starter but again he showed us all why Hazan had the confidence to give him the chance to show his ware, something that he has not had in the past. Kehat was terrific. He schooled some of the Croatians a number of times and also got a few tips from the opposition as well.
Maor Bozaglo also received a place in the starting XI and showed why he deserved one as well. His free locks were dangerous and he has a chance to have an impact on the younger generation and matured as well.
The second half saw Almog Cohen enter the fray and show what he’s got, which was unbelievable skill and passion. His scorcher of an effort was just saved by the keeper and he looked good as well. His Ingolstadt schooling has done him well. Another player who has a future with this group.
Lastly, Yossi Benayoun came on for the final quarter hour to a round of applause by the locals as they certainly have not forgotten what type of player and Liverpool legend he was. To see the whole section next to me get up and cheer for number 15 was absolutely heart warming.
Sure Israel came up a bit short and yes Israel still needs to find a way to finish a bit better with the chances they get, but the future looks bright and rosy for whoever the new manager will be. But I for one would have liked to see one more game out of Hazan, it’s too bad Israel doesn’t have another friendly this week. It would have been good to find a few more good friends.