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Euro hopes for Israel ahead of Malta clash

    Manager Luis Fernandez has reiterated his belief that Israel can reach the Euro 2012 finals, ahead of their Group F qualifying opener against Malta next week.

    Thursday's match at Ramat Gan will be followed by a tricky fixture in Georgia on September 7. Croatia, Greece and Latvia complete the group.

    Fernandez said: "There is no reason why this team should not reach the finals in Poland and Ukraine. We have a strong squad that would have been good enough to go beyond the group stage had they reached the World Cup finals in South Africa."

    However, public expectations are very low in Israel following a poor World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign in which Israel, under Dror Kashtan, finished fourth, behind group behind Greece, Switzerland and Latvia.

    But Fernandez has perhaps the strongest ever Israeli squad to choose from. Nine of champions Hapoel Tel Aviv's preferred starting XI are Israeli while there are a record four players in the Premier League - Yossi Benayoun, Dekel Keinan, Tal Ben Haim and Tamir Cohen - along with Celtic's Biram Kayal.

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