Eran Zahavi holds court after Israel hat-trick breaks goal scoring record

Sep 2, 2021 | Football

The Israel National Team defeated Faroe Islands 4-0 to maintain second place in their World Cup qualifying group with matches against Austria and Denmark coming up on Saturday and Tuesday.

Eran Zahavi who became the top Israeli goal scorer of all-time with 337 markers recorded a hat-trick in the victory surpassing Alon Mizrachi’s 334 goals. The superstar will now set his sights on Mordechai Spiegler’s Israel National Team record as he needs just two more to match the 31 strikes that “Mottele” scored for the Blue & White.

Just ahead of Saturday night’s clash versus Austria at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, Zahavi looked back at not only his goal scoring prowess but also having Monas Dabbur back on the team, the up and coming youngsters along with the team’s chances to punch their ticket to Qatar 2022.

“Although I want to score, I think that the most important thing in the next two games is to get the best results for the national team. I won’t put myself in front of the national team and whenever the goals will come they will come. I hope it happens sooner rather than later but the national team is above all.”

As for the stiff competition in the group, Zahavi knows that while Israel is in good shape in 2nd place, there are still games coming up against a pair of teams who featured in the recent European Championships, “If I didn’t think it was possible to advance to the World Cup, then I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing. We know that we are not favorites in this group and we are playing against teams that have been in the Euros. But, we are going to do the best that we can to get into the biggest tournament that we can. Our goal is to continue to move up in the rankings.”

Should Israel be able to come away with seven points out of a possible nine, the team would be in extremely good shape heading into the stretch run of World Cup qualifying, however, Zahavi wants to stay grounded and not look too far ahead.

“Seven points would be great and it would show that we didn’t lose any games with two wins and a draw against the top two teams in this group. But I don’t want to look at the possibilities as we have to look right now at the Austria game and the support of the fans which will be crucial for us. Hopefully with the fan support we can get a good result out of it”.

As for the fans, they will be welcoming back Monas Dabbur who did not play in the June friendlies after recusing himself following his unsavory post during Israel’s conflict with Gaza as well as Omer Atzily after his part with the minors. Zahavi himself had his own issues in the past with the National Team and understands the situation that the Hoffenheim striker is in.

“I believe that the Israel Football Association made a decision to bring both Monas Dabbur and Omer Atzily back and I was in the same situation once. People make mistakes and sometimes these things shouldn’t happen, but they do. We are one team and we want the fans to see the good of the National Team and support us. We are one National Team with both Jews and Arabs and we have to be as one.”

“I understand that people may be upset with Dabbur and I know people were also upset when I threw down the captain’s armband, but here I am today and Monas will be there as well. I knew that there may be a negative reaction when I returned but people supported me and I hope that will be the same case for Dabbur.”

The current captain of the National Team Bibras Natcho continues to orchestrate the team on the pitch and is a critical part of Israel’s engine explained Zahavi, “When Bibras came out of the game against the Faroe Islands we had a bit of problems moving the ball. He has such an amazing football brain. He has played under ten coaches and he just isn’t a regular player. He is very special.”

Israel currently features a number of young, up and coming players which includes Manor Solomon who plays his club football with Shakhtar Donetsk and Liel Abada, who just joined Celtic. Both of these starlets are making their mark on the National Team Zahavi said, “The youngsters are very talented and I’m happy that we brought them in and that they are getting playing time. I am also happy that they are playing abroad at such a young age. I wish I would have had that opportunity when I was so young. They are gaining so much experience from us and I am here to help and be a role model for them as well.”

Tal Ben Haim who recently retired took up an important post with the National Team and will be working with the younger generation of defenders as he will use his vast experience and knowledge to give them tips and tools along the way. “It’s very important that a player like Tal is part of Israeli soccer and it’s very crucial for the youngsters and the entire IFA to have him with us. We won’t see the changes yet but we will see that in the future. He has given tips here and there and he will make a huge impact on Israeli soccer.”

Israel will also be taking part in European Championship 2024 qualifying in the nest future but for right now, Zahavi knows where his ad the team’s focus will be, “We aren’t thinking about the Euros just yet we are still playing in the World Cup qualifying. We also have the Nations League after that before the Euros, so we have time.”

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