Israel National Team head Coach Willi Ruttensteiner held a press conference after announcing his squad for the upcoming UEFA Nations League matches at Scotland on September 4th and against Slovakia on September 7th at the Netanya Stadium. Ruttensteiner, who began his time with the blue-and-white as the sports director moved down to the sidelines last month and will look to help the team advance to the European championships in the summer of 2021.
The team called up included both veteran and younger players who are playing in Israel and various countries around the world including the United States, Scotland, Serbia, Ukraine and Germany. One of the surprise players that will join the national team for the first time is Joel Abu Hanna who currently plays for Zorya Luhansk in Ukraine.
The 22-year old was born in Germany to an Israeli-Arab father and German mother and has featured for his birth country’s youth national teams. However at 1.84 meters, the center back is a commodity that Israel needs and therefore Ruttensteiner who called him a “very interesting player” is in camp with the blue-and-white.
Another player who made waves recently is Eran Zahavi who was able to gain his release from Guangzhou R&F in China and will now be looking for a new club home with Fenerbahçe in Turkey being rumored. Ruttensteiner praised his star scorer and spoke about his importance to the national team, “Eran Zahavi has an amazing attitude for the Israeli national team and he’s a model to come back and try to qualify for the final round. We will see about his club situation because if he doesn’t have any games until the end of the year it will be a problem.”
A serious issue that has come up this international window is the fact that league’s around the world do not have to release players for their country’s upcoming games due to the coronavirus regulations and that was the case in China with Dia Saba not being able to leave his team due to strict quarantine rules. Ruttensteiner sia that this issue raised some serious concerns, “It’s very problematic because if you have more players in other countries that can’t release them, then you will lose players for the competitions. FIFA tried to find a solution and allowed countries with 5 days quarantine to release players but it’s tough to deal with the associations on this matter.”
One of the players that Ruttensteiner left out of the squad was veteran goal scorer Lior Refaelov who plays his club football for Antwerp in Belgium as he explained why he made the decision not to call the 34-year old up, “Refaelov is a great player and great personality. He’s not a player to be the 3rd or 4th choice but higher than that. I have some players already and I will not keep him on a waiting list due to all that he has done for the Israel National Team, it’s not fair to him.”
Ruttensteiner also referenced his situation as head coach with the team and how long he will be in the role for, “It’s a clear decision by the Israel Football Association and my post is until the end of the year which is 8 games and then the Association will analyze the situation. At that point we will see how we will go forward into the next year due to budget and the coronavirus.”
Lastly, the head coach spoke about how critical it is for the Israeli teams in European competition to be successful for the national team program, “I want to congratulate Maccabi Tel Aviv and wish the other teams in Europa League competition the very best. Their success is very important for the national teams and Israeli football.”
Israel National Team Squad: Goalkeepers: Ofir Marciano, Ariel Harush, Itamar Nitzan. Defenders: Sheran Yeini, Eitan Tibi, Eli Dasa Joel Abu Hanna, Hatem Abd Elhamed, Oral Dagani, Ofri Arad, Taleb Tawhatha. Midfielders: Avi Rikan, Dan Glazer, Bibras Natcho, Dor Peretz, Nir Bitton, Manor Solomon, Gadi Kinda, Ilay Elmkies. Forwards: Monas Dabbur, Eran Zahavi, Eylon Almog, Sean Weissmann.