The Israel National Football Team in a crucial World Cup Qualifier looked to be hung over from Rosh HaShana, The Jewish New Year celebrations from Thursday & Friday as they were only able to draw with an upstart Azerbejan Saturday night at Ramat Gan Stadium. In an absolute disaster of a match Israel looked weak, disorganized and clueless against a side that were pretty bad as well. Read on for more details, but this game will be looked at as the death nail for any chance of Israel making it to Brazil in 2014.
It was pleasant to see Beer Sheva defender and Under-21 player Ofir Davidzada get his first start with the senior side and pick up an assist on Itay Schecter’s tying goal for Israel. Unfortunately that is where the good for Israel ended. Sure Eitan Tibi & Tal Ben Haim were solid as well, but after that there was not much good to come out of this game.
For Azerbejan they had about 100 supporters ion the stands and they cheered on their team like crazy! They were fantastic in rooting their side on and I had a chance to speak to some of them after the game and offer congratulations. The Sports Rabbi takes his hat off to the supporters of Azerbejan!
The manager Eli Gutman could not have done a worse job preparing his team for such an important game. Period. He did not inspire his team. He did not start the correct players to win. He did not set up the proper formation to win. He did not prepare them to win. In a home game where you need to take 3 points especially when the two rivals above you in the group Russia & Portugal have already won their matches on Friday night Gutman had to start a lineup that to score goals. He needed to have offensive players that know how to pass the ball forward and get the strikers into the best position to score. The problem that Israel had last night was their inability to do just that, get the ball to the strikers, and considering Gutman only started ONE striker it would be nearly impossible to get the ball to a number of goal scorers!
Explain to me what Elyaniv Barda was doing on the bench? The former Genk man now playing back in Israel has been in fine form thus far and should have started the match. Itay Schecter on the other hand has looked very poor on the pitch for Hapoel Tel Aviv, but Gutman’s “confidence” in his ex-Hapoel Tel Aviv players, Schecter, Eran Zehavi & Bibras Natcho could not have looked worse together. Yes, Zehavi has been fine for Maccabi Tel Aviv, but Lior Refaelov has been terrific at Club Brugge. How does he not get into the starting lineup?
Maor Melikson who had been nicked up started and was ineffective throughout the match. Hen Ezra despite his fine play for Maccabi Haifa was a negative last night and Sheran Yeini was not much better. A poor performance across the board for Israel in every which way.
One person not mentioned in The Bad section was Israel’s goalkeeper, the starter for Spanish second division outfit Mallorca, Dudu Aoute. The goal he gave up was inexcusable. If you are playing at these levels of competition you have to make the save on such a long, clear shot. It looked very, very, very UGLY! To see him leap in the air and not be able to knock away the ball before it hit the back of the goal was extremely painful to watch. He looked old. And checking back at the other players not only did they also look old, they looked so uninspired!
If you have been selected to represent your country one would think that this is one of the highest privileges, but no, not for most of these players on this night. They looked as if they could care less about being on the grand stage wearing the blue & white of their home country in front of their home supporters. These 90 minutes were arguably some of the ugliest played by this squad under Eli Gutman. A disgrace!
The Bottom Line:
Quite amazingly Israel still has a chance to qualify for the playoffs. How you ask? Well they just have to defeat both Russia and Portugal away and take care of pesky Northern Ireland at home. This is pretty much inconceivable but, hey, that’s why they play the games! So there is always hope, but the realist in me says, they have slim to no chance on advancing to the playoffs and with that in mind Gutman MUST put out his most offensive, young and best line up he possibly can. Israel has to move along and begin preparing their youngsters to take the place of the veterans and older players. That way, they may have a chance to finally make it out of World Cup Qualifying and into the actual World Cup!