Israel eyes World Cup slot after getting the luck of the draw
Under-21 team, which reached the European Championship finals for the first time last summer, together with top class players like Liverpool’s Yossi Benayoun and Chelsea’s Tal Ben Haim, the feeling is that there can be no excuses for Kashtan if Israel does not at least clinch second place in this group.
Israel’s goalkeeper Dudu Awat, who many consider was the team’s most outstanding player in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, said: “We always talk about qualifying but never do it. Now is the time to do the business. I do not want to take our opponents lightly but if we go about it correctly we can finally qualify.”
Uefa have commended the Israel FA’s decision not to allow national striker Omer Golan to receive a Mercedes as a gift from Manchester bookie Fred Done for scoring Israel’s winning goal against Russia earlier this month.
Europe’s governing body emphasised that any player who accepts a gift from a third party will be deemed guilty of receiving a bribe. This ruling was made in response to a Russian billionaire who was offering four Mercedes to the best Croatian players if they beat England, prior to their team’s 3-2 victory over the Three Lions last week.
But the 25-year-old Israeli striker can take some consolation from the offers he is now receiving.
Both Anderlecht and Steaua Bucharest have bid £500,000 to buy the player when the transfer window reopens in January. Golan’s agent Ro- nen Katzav said that there has been interest from several Premier League clubs and the player would prefer to move to England.
Even a letter of thanks from FA chairman Geoff Thompson received by his Israeli counterpart Avi Luzon expressing England’s gratitude for Israel’s victory over Russia could not assuage the feeling that England had betrayed Israel by losing to Croatia.
It was as if Israel had carefully selected an expensive gift for a powerful acquaintance and seen the present unceremoniously dumped in the garbage. Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest newspaper, was scathing. “Europe’s Wretches,” screamed the headline. “McClaren’s losers couldn’t take advantage of Israel’s gift.”
“What a disgrace,” screamed the headline on the front page of Maariv, Israel second largest circulation daily newspaper, beneath a picture of Steven Gerrard with a bowed head. “Barda and Golan did most of the work for them on Saturday but McClaren’s miserable team couldn’t even get a point against Croatia.”