Israel manager faces uncertain future

Israel’s French manager clinging to his job after back-to-back Euro 2012 defeats

By Simon Griver and Danny Caro, October 14, 2010
Luis Fernandez

Luis Fernandez

EURO 2012 The future of Luis Fernandez, the Israel manager, hangs in the balance after back-to-back defeats against Croatia and Greece left the team's hopes of qualification hanging by a thread.

Israel went down 2-1 at home to Croatia followed by the same scoreline in Greece on Tuesday night. Two goals from Spurs midfielder Niko Kranjcar resulted in defeat at the Ramat Gan Stadium with Etay Shechter's strike in the last 10 minutes coming to no avail against Croatia.

There have been calls for Fernandez to resign from IFA executive member Avner Koppel but Fernandez is expected to continue. Fernandez said: "Let me work and we can improve. A lack of experience really hurt us in both games and we really missed players like Benayoun, Ben Haim and Kayal."

Avi Luzon, the IFA chairman, backed the boss. He said: "Fernandez stays until the end of the campaign."

Central defender Tal Ben Haim missed the midweek match in Greece where home fans booed the Hatikvah and held aloft Palestinian flags around the stadium. They also raised banners with "Israeli murderers" and chanted "Free Palestine."

The game itself saw Israel go down fighting. With Fernandez making five changes to his line-up, Israel fell behind midway through the first half when Dimitris Salpingidis' scuffed shot looped into the net.

Israel hauled themselves level after 59 minutes when a dangerous cross from Roberto Colautti was helped into the net by Greek defender Nikos Spyropoulos. Greece clinched the points with a controversial penalty after Salpingidis went down easily under a challenge from Israel keeper Dudu Awat, allowing captain Giorgos Karagounis to score from the penalty spot.

Captain Yossi Benayoun remains behind Fernandez. "It would be a disgrace to bring a new manager and start calling for his resignation after four games. We do not have a good enough team to beat everybody in our path. But people expect it. Even with Jose Mourinho as manager we would not have won these games."

One IFA executive member who did not want to be named said, "The only reason Fernandez is not being fired is because he is not Israeli. People are worried how it will look in Europe."

With Israel's next qualifier not until next March, the IFA could offer Hapoel Tel Aviv manager Eli Guttman should Fernandez buckle under the pressure of a hugely disappointing start to the campaign that has seen Israel muster only four points from four matches. They now lie four points behind Greece.

There was more bad news for Benayoun who has torn achilles tendon and is likely to be out until March. The Chelsea midfielder will travel to Sweden to undergo surgery.

Benayoun said: "I came to Israel ready to play and they told me it was a big tear. Chelsea were sure it was something small and do not understand how they missed it. I hope that I can help them win trophies in the final weeks of the season."

Last updated: 2:35pm, October 14 2010