The Israel National Team came into the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with expectations to build off of the past few months of play under interim head coach Willi Ruttensteiner who had the interim tag taken off of his title over the winter. When Israel was drawn into Group F with Denmark the initial impression was, well the Danes are not that big a team and aren’t attractive as say England, Italy, Spain or Belgium.
However, looks may be deceiving.
Denmark is not only ranked 12th in the world to the Blue & White 87th overall, but they feature players who were in the Starting XI that play in Spain, England, Germany and Italy. Israel can only claim one of their players, Munas Dabbur who plays in the Bundesliga at that level.
Take for example a player like Martin Braithwaite who plays for Barcelona. He isn’t exactly one of their stars, but he’s certainly head and shoulders above any of the Israeli players. How about Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel, Atalanta defensive back Joakim Mæhle and Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen who made one of the runs of the game. Or Inter Milan star Christian Eriksen, Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Højbjerg who was The Sports Rabbi’s Man of the Match? Even Jonas Wind from Copenhagen gave Ruttensteiner’s team fit after fit.
The level between the two National Teams is stark.
Look at the burst of speed Braithwaite used to turn Eitan Tibi, the Maccabi Tel Aviv defender inside out. How about Jonas Wind and sending a perfect back head pass to Braithwaite on that play? World Class.
Hatem El Hamed who played for half a season in Scotland with Celtic couldn’t properly clear the ball when it was in the box and Wind pounced on the opportunity with a clinical finish.
As almost every National Team coach will say, when you make mistakes at this level you will pay a price. And yes that price was paid.
Each of Denmark’s runs were perfectly timed as the Danes sliced right through the central defenders which included Joel Abu Hana who made his second start for the National Team and was way our of his depth once again as he was subbed out at the halftime break. Abu Hana wasn’t in the plans to start but when Nir Bitton pulled up lame earlier in the day the Zorya centre back was thrust into the Starting XI. Of course, it was slim picking on the Israel bench with the likes of Or Blorian available who was called up to the National Team for the first time.
Dor Peretz who was able to handle the Danes in the midfield then moved to the back in order to keep the defensive formation. But couldn’t have Ruttensteiner perhaps gone to a 4-4-2 instead? So many players weren’t able to perform up to the level that they had wanted to including Manor Solomon who was invisible for the majority of the match. The coach complimented the squad on their play at the start of the second half and rightfully so, it was deserved and hopefully that will carry over.
There’s plenty of food for thought heading into Sunday’s qualifier against Scotland and there will certainly be changes. Perhaps Neta Lavi will be in the Starting XI after coming on in the second half. Maybe Shon Weissman will be playing up front in place of Dabbur.
However, the one thought that kept coming back was, what would have the squad looked like had Lior Refaelov been on the pitch and how many more options would have Ruttensteiner had?