Kashtan will take a win at any price
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World Cup Israel manager Dror Kashtan sees complacency as the biggest problem as the national team prepares for two World Cup 2010 qualifiers in the space of four days.
His team take on Luxembourg away tomorrow, followed by Latvia on Wednesday. But preparations were hampered by Yom Kippur as the players, who were given Wednesday afternoon and Thursday off, will clearly not be in peak condition. Despite two unconvincing performances last month, Israel's campaign got off to a very promising start.
The Blues pulled back two goals in the final 20 minutes to draw against Switzerland and came from behind to beat Moldova 2-1 in Kishnev. But the most significant result in September was Switzerland's shock 2-1 home defeat against Luxembourg.
Luxembourg's victory has made it clear that Israel can take nothing for granted. "Luxembourg are a well organised and disciplined team," observed Kashtan. "We cannot afford to take it easy. I will be happy with three points regardless of the score. I'll be satisfied with 1-0."
Israel's build-up to the games were boosted when they climbed to a best-ever 16th in the FIFA rankings, two places below England.
Another problem facing Kashtan is the fact that most of his players playing abroad are not fully match fit. The squad's four Premier League stars managed only 10 minutes between them last weekend. Yossi Benayoun came on for the closing stages of Liverpool's win at Manchester City while Tal Ben Haim remained on the bench.
Portsmouth's Ben Sahar, on loan from Chelsea, and Bolton's Tamir Cohen, have yet to feature this season. Sahar has recovered from the knee injury he sustained in Moldova. Cohen is suspended for the Luxembourg match.
Israel's Under 21 team plays Italy in Ancona tomorrow in the first leg of the playoffs for next summer's Euro 2009 Championships in Sweden. The return will be at Bloomfield Stadium on Wednesday.
Premier League players Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue are scheduled to be in Israel next month for the Ivory Coast's international friendly at Ramat Gan on November 19.
Shahar Peer has been ruled out for the rest of the year due to illness.