Israel have a mighty test against Bosnia on Sunday night but one that is not insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination. Sure Bosnia is playng with out star strikers Eden Dzeko of Manchester City and Vedad Ibisevic from Stutgart and nevertheless should be a tough opponent. However Israel comes into this game with a good feeling not only round the squad itself but also in its environs.
After collecting a quick 6 points in October with away wins over Cyprus & Andora, Israel will face its first home test which will thankfully be in the brand spanking new Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa. In prior years the National Team would have been preparing to play their qualifiers in the concrete monster called Ramat Gan Stadium where the seats were about 3 miles from the pitch and the action.
One could say that the atmosphere at Ramat Gan was well, non existent. This time around that will be a totally different story. Finally with a state of the art facility rivaling Europe’s best arenas, 30k strong Israel supporters will make their noise heard and felt reverberating throughout the stadium.
For the first time Israel will have a true home field advantage against on of the world’s top teams. With three of the five Euro 2016 Qualifiers being played in Haifa, while the other two at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, Israel should be able to rank right up there with the best fans in Europe and create a terrifying cauldron for the visitors in each occasion.
Israel also has a tremendous amount of depth on their roster with multiple players in multiple positions that could challenge for eachother for playing time on any given night. Scorers galore in Omer Damari, Tomer Hemed, Itay Schecter, Tal Ben Haim, Gili Vermut, Eran Zahavi and more could be the hero of the match.
Multifaceted midfielders in Bibras Natcho & Lior Refaelov to name two can change the game in an instant and have proven to be real threats for the European clubs game in game out. A steady defensive corps led by the 32-year old captain Tal Ben Haim along with all star Eitan Tibi provide the steady presence that will allow Eyal Meshumar & Omri Ben Harush the ability to race up and down the wings.
The talent is tremendous as well as flexible giving coach Eli Gutman the tools to be Abel to change the flow of the game on a dime and alter the look of his side with a substitute or two.
Which brings us to coach Gutman. This campaign is his second as National team boss and with experience being on his side this time around that should be an advantage for the wily veteran coach. What he learned from the World Cup qualifying tournament will serve him well be it holding onto a lead late into a match (which his side didn’t do against Portugal) or the ability to put away less talented sides than his own.
Not giving up two points and settling for one will be one of the biggest lessons that Gutman found out along the way. Don’t take a draw when you can score win. Make sure to collect maximum points at home and draw on the road. That’s the principal that Gutman should go by each match.
Which means he MUST get out of the gates quickly against Bosnia and not sit back and wait for the match to come to him. Israel has a talented side and one that can play with the best of them. We have seen it and they know that they can do it.
Gutman must allow his side to play attacking football especially at home in front of 30k rabid supporters. Playing for a draw will be a colossal mistake and one that Israel can’t afford to make.
They must attempt to take the full 3pts for a total of 9pts after 3 matches. This will put them in a perfect position going into the next round of matches in March which will feature Wales and Belgium visiting the Holy Land.
If Israel can play aggressive football along with responsible defense in front of their home fans there should be no way Israel doesn’t walk out of Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa without the victory and in prime position to qualify for their first major tournament since the 1970 Mexico World Cup.