Israel knows who to stop. The question is how to stop them


When you go into a battle, especially one on the sports field, it’s always advisable to be wary of the biggest threats. And that might just be one advantage Israel have right now, ahead of the matches against Wales and Belgium.

There’s every chance Eli Guttman has carried out a SWOT analysis of Israel’s next two opponents, as well as spending hours watching DVDs and reading reports from his scouts as the squad leaves no stone unturned in their pursuit of glory. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, as the saying goes.

On the flipside, it’d be interesting to see how much research Chris Coleman and Marc Wilmots have done. When you have players of the calibre of Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard in your ranks, complacency comes into the equation. But there will be no excuses if Israel keep their dream alive. Four points from a possible six would be an excellent return.

This is where Guttman earns his money. By making tough decisions, the first one being keeping Yossi Benayoun out of the squad. Yossi has been in fine form of late at Maccabi Haifa, but Guttman has selected 10 players from outside Ligat Ha’Al, less experienced players, but players who are on top of their games, playing in Europe.

Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton hit the nail on the head when he said: “Wales are not just Gareth Bale. We’ll be trying to beat Wales, not Gareth Bale.”

Respect is one thing, but it’s important Israel play both matches with no fear and show the footballing world what they are capable of.

* Dean Furman has been excused from South Africa’s forthcoming friendlies against Swaziland and Nigeria in order to help Doncaster Rovers reach the League 1 playoffs.

Furman said: “It’s a hugely important time for the club. We need everyone fit and ready to fight for the final eight games.”

* The line-up for the semi-finals of the Peter Morrison Trophy will be confirmed on Sunday when newly-crowned MJSL champions Leeds Maccabi host Maccabi London Lions Spartans.

Lions are my favourites to progress, especially when you consider that Leeds will be missing the cup-tied Jordan Marks and Bradley Lander. Indeed Bradley will be playing for the Lions this weekend. He described it as a “heart-breaker” when the draw was made.

* Having steered Hendon United into the final of the Cyril Anekstein Cup, David Garbacz faces a real headache over the kick-off time.

“Everyone is thrilled, except for my wife, that is, as it’s her birthday on the bank holiday weekend of the final, and we were supposed to be going away,” he said. “How do you fancy the Holiday Inn in Wingate instead, darling?”

* Clive Nathan admits that both he and joint-manager Anthony Cohen will struggle to hold back the tears ahead of AC Whetstone’s last-ever match.

Prior to the trip to Catford & Bromley Maccabi, Nathan said: “We’ll be working on the team-talk and trying not to cry as we do so.”

Whatever happens, they’ve been an absolute credit to the league.

* Hearty congratulations go to Scott Spurling. Not even an appearance in the sin-bin for infringements at the scrum could dampen his spirits after Saracens’ nail-biting LV Cup final win over Exeter.

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