Injuries will not disrupt our European dream, says Guttman
FOOTBALL ELI Guttman is confident Israel can overcome an injury crisis and qualify for the Euro 2016 finals play-offs ahead of their doubleheader show-down against Cyprus and Belgium.
Israel host Cyprus on Saturday night in Jerusalem before finishing their Group B campaign in Belgium on Tuesday. The top two automatic qualifying berths in Group B are still mathematically possible but either Wales or Belgium, who both play Andorra, will need to drop points.
Israel look well-placed to finish third and claim the play-off spot for next summer’s finals in France, although Bosnia, two points behind in fourth, and Cyprus, four points behind in fifth, can still catch them.
Israel boss Eli Guttman concedes that only a victory against Cyprus will suffice. “Injuries are part of football,” he said. “As a manager you are always facing the moment of truth and this time it is Cyprus. “They are a tenacious team and difficult to play against. They can still qualify and they won’t give up easily.”
Israel’s cause will not be helped by injuries to some key players including CSKA Moscow midfielder Bibras Natcho. An ever-present in the qualifying campaign, he suffered a concussion on club duty.
Midfielder Beram Kayal, who is in fine form with Championship leaders Brighton, will step in to the holding midfield position, but Seagulls teammate Tomer Hemed is likely to start on the bench. Also injured are Sheran Yeini, Lior Refaelov, Ben Sahar, Rami Gershon and Maor Buzaglo, but topscorer Omer Damari returns.
Guttman refused to speculate on whether Israel would finish third. “The only thing that interests me is beating Cyprus and preparing for the match. We’ll save the calculations for later.”
But Israeli eyes will also be on Bosnia’s match at home to Wales on Saturday. Israel would finish above Bosnia if they achieve the same number of points because of their better head-to- head record. So if Israel can beat the Cypriots and Bosnia fail to beat Wales, Israel will finish third regardless of the last round of matches.
Israel’s expected starting XI: