There’s an old adage in the world of National Team soccer when attempting to qualify for a big tournament, win at home and draw away. Unfortunately, Israel and coach Willi Ruttensteiner didn’t read that handbook.
After two home clashes the Blue & White have banked just one point out of a possible six. It’s not to say that a defeat to Denmark wasn’t expected, it was. But a draw against Scotland, the National Team that Israel is fighting for third place in the group in order to raise their FIFA ranking certainly wasn’t, especially after the brilliant first half the hosts put in.
Dor Peretz’s fantastic strike just before the break was superb and gave Israel a well deserved lead, but they left a number of terrific opportunities on the table including a Manor Solomon effort that he would certainly would have liked to have back.
However, Scotland’s bench boss saw enough of the Blue & White slicing up his defense and sending his players back on their heals and made a game changing substitute at halftime that changed the complexion of the game.
Instead of reacting a few minutes into the second half to the new reality, Ruttensteiner saw his own team dominated and then easily taken advantage of as Ryan Fraser scored the equalizer while threatening to take a lead time and time again. To make matters worse, while a team can make five substitutes it can only be done in three shifts which israel didn’t do and had to leave some players on the pitch who weren’t 100% until the final whistle.
Eran Zahavi was way off the mark all game long as shot after shot missed the target while Shon Weissman never seemed to get into the flow of the game. But the key for Scotland was that Ruttensteiner never once veered from his game plan to counteract what the visors were trying to do. No change of formation, no creativity and absolutely no answers.
Israel now plays Moldova on Wednesday which should be an easy three points in the bag, in fact with two games against both Moldova and Faroe Islands that should be 12 points. The problem is that Denmark, Scotland and Austria will also take 12 points from those four games which means Israel now has to find a way to make up at least the two points lost against Scotland versus the Danes or the Austrians. And that’s going to be a very, very tough ask if they have any designs on finishing third in group play.
Advancing to the World Cup was a near impossibility right after the identity of the teams in the group was known and that’s why the goal has to be third place if what Ruttensteiner has set his sights out to do which is to move up the world rankings.
After a game like the one against Scotland, that probability is also becoming an impossibility.