Well it couldn’t have been easier for Israel winning in remarkable fashion over a Bosnia team that was just at the World Cup in Brazil. Up 2-0 at halftime followed by a red card minutes into the second half was all Israel needed to dispatch FIFA’s 26th ranked country in front of over 30K rabid fans!
There were tons of terrific runs by Israel dominating play for long stretches of time with Omer Damari causing chaos for the Bosnia defenders. Bibras Natcho showed everyone exactly why he is Israel’s MVP and worthy of playing on the UEFA Champions League with CSKA. It was Natcho who created anarchy for the Bosnia squad early on setting the stage for a performance of the ages by Israel.
Nifty passing by Eran Zahavi & the much maligned Gili Vermut gave Israel its first home goal of the Euro 2016 qualifiers proving all of the skeptics wrong. This also included yours truly calling for an in form Lior atefaelov to start in his place and play a more aggressive style of football.
But aggressive is what we all got. Israel had its flank defenders Omri Ben Harush & Eyal Meshumar continuously going up and down the sidelines cheating offensively and giving up the occasional Bosnian chance but it was those players that gave Bosnia the track meet they were not prepared for.
Playing without a striker the Bosnia midfielders has no one to look for, no target man and looked lost before the game even started. Even though there were a number of long ball chances for Bosnia which caught the Israel defense and central midfielders Eitan Tibi & Tal Ben Haim flat footed “Mazal” luck was on their side.
At the stroke of halftime Israel took a 2-0 lead with Eran Zahavi again dishing off the perfect helper to Omer Damari and sending the crowd into even more of a delirious state!
If things couldn’t have gotten any worse for Bosnia they had the honor of collecting a red card only minutes into half number 2 as Toni Sunjic headed for the showers after yanking down Damari right outside the box.
But to seal the deal was it not fitting for Eran Zahavi, Israel’s all star playing at home for Maccabi Tel Aviv scoring the third and final goal of a wonderful night of football, possibly the best in Israel in over two decades.
With nine points Israel is prime position to qualify at worst case for the Euro 2016 playoffs in Paris, but leading the group, why should they settle for just that. As Bosnia coach Safet Susic said Israel dominated in all the parameters of the match against players who play in much better leagues than most of the Israeli players.
For the first time in history Israel has won their first three qualifiers of any one campaign. This is looking like a tourney for the ages and one that coach Eli Gutman can send a small thank you to Hamas & former Israel FA head Avi Luzon. Why? For pushing off the Belgium match to March which should have been the opening game of the campaign. That’s why.
Gutman paid tribute to all of the players who did not play and only wished he had another game next week. He knows that some of those players will have to play at some point as the road is still very, very long.
Sure Israel will have to play Wales in Haifa and Belgium in Jerusalem back to back in late March but both games will be at home which will be the true test to see if Israel really are contenders or pretenders. Until then Eli Gutman can rest easy and know that there is a reason why he is the coach and we are the press.