The Israel National Team gets back to exhibition game action when they visit Latvia this weekend as they ready for the Pre-Qualifying Olympic Tournament that gets underway in under two weeks. After the blue-and-white split their preparation games in Hungary with a win over the hosts and a loss to Iceland this past weekend it was back to work at the Drive In Arena under head coach Ariel Beit Halachmi who needed to integrate a new member of the squad.
With the shoulder injury to Tomer Ginat that will keep him out of upcoming tourney, naturalized Israeli Will Rayman took his place. The forward, who signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv but will be loaned out to Saint-Quentin in France, featured for Hapoel Haifa the past couple of seasons and seemed to have raised some eyebrows just a few days at training camp.
“Will has been a welcome surprise especially his attitude,” Beit Halachmi said. “All in all he is doing things well and has added to our toughness and physicality. It’s as if he has been with us from day one.”
The bench boss also spoke about losing Ginat and gave an update about Nimrod Levi’s condition, “There was good news about Tomer Ginat as the injury is not as serious as we thought and I am happy for him because it’s important that he is healthy. Tomer is one of the most important players both in terms of professionalism and being a good teammate. We have to look ahead and I am sure that we will be able to compensate for Tomer’s injury. Nimrod Levi is still in pain from his injury and we are doing our utmost that he will be ready as his plan is to play.”
YIFTACH ZIV has been working on his jumper👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/l0JqyvHywW
— Sports Rabbi (@thesportsrabbi) August 1, 2023
Iftach Ziv who will also play his professional ball outside of Israel’s borders as he moves from Maccabi Tel Aviv to Granada in Spain also spoke about welcoming Rayman to the team, “Ariel has said not once and not twice that whoever is here will give of themselves on the court and in the lockerroom and are representing the country. We have a goal and expectations or no expectations we want to advance to the next stage.”
There’s no question Ziv is excited to be back with the National Team and is looking forward to contributing, “It’s always great to come and be a part of the National Team. There are a number of guys here who have been together for some time and there are also some younger guys who are practicing and playing in games for the first time. It’s been great so far and we are all enjoying it. We have a specific goal in mind, a distant dream that we want to succeed in reaching and that is why we are all here.”
With a trip to Latvia on deck with games against Ukraine and Holland, Beit Halachmi understands that these are the final two tests ahead of the qualifying competition in Estonia, “We had a very good tournament and the two games that we played were very important for our preparation. We were able to understand what we were doing better and also what wasn’t as good. We are doing a lot of things and we are checking many of those things in the games that we will play this weekend which are the last games ahead of the qualifying tournament, so they are very important.”
“We can already see what the Czechs and Estonians have been doing as they have played some games but North Macedonia hasn’t played yet but we will see them play as they have two games in Serbia. This will allow us to know what we need to do, but all of the teams are good.”
All in all, Ziv and the team want to go as far as they can and as the players continue to jell he believes that anything is possible, “The atmosphere in the lockerroom is good and we may have lost a game but we aren’t really looking at the result as we played the way we wanted to and we are enjoying being with one another. We all believe and want to be here and know what we need to do in order to reach our goals. Ariel and the staff are preparing us as best as possible. There is a new style of play, a new coach and we want to win and advance to the next stage.”