Euro 2008 / Israel hosts Estonia in must-win qualifier
After a goalless draw against England last Saturday, Israel takes on minnows Estonia tonight.
After a goalless draw against England last Saturday, Israel takes on minnows Estonia tonight (Live broadcast, Ch. 1, 7 P.M.) in a match it must win to retain any hope of qualifying for the Euro 2008 finals.
"We must take all three points ... we know that if we don't our chances will have gone," Israel captain Yossi Benayoun told a news conference ahead of today's Group E qualifying match.
Saturday's draw with England left Israel fourth in the group, level on points with third-placed England but three points behind Russia and five adrift of leader Croatia.
West Ham United midfielder Benayoun said the players were ready for a tough encounter with Estonia, which has yet to score a goal or collect a point in the seven-team group.
"I would like to win 3-0 or 4-0 but we will have to work very hard against Estonia to get the three points. They will throw everything into defense to try and avoid conceding a goal," Benayoun said.
Israel coach Dror Kashtan said any result other than a win would be disappointing.
"On paper we are favorites, we are better than Estonia. But in that also lies the danger, because in such situations people tend to take things easy," Kashtan said.
Israel has Maccabi Haifa striker Roberto Colautti and Bolton Wanderers midfielder back in the team after missing the England game because of suspension.
Colautti who scored on his debut in a 1-0 win in Tallinn last September replaces Sivaspor's Pini Balili, while Beitar's Arik Benado loses his place to Tal.
After the the media circus that preceded the England match only a handful of photographers turned up at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan yesterday to take pictures of the Estonia team.
Instead of the frenzy that accompanied Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, the atmosphere at Ramat Gan yesterday was reminiscent of preparations for a friendly international, as lesser known luminaries such as Andres Oper and Liivo Leetma worked out on the field.
The Estonians are looking for a first goal in the qualifying tournament and judging by what they showed in practice, they will be trying to score a header from a set piece.
Lokomotiv Moscow defender Dimitri Kruglov said Estonia needed to play the same kind of game it played against Israel in Tallinn. "We created chances and were close to scoring," he said. "The key factor will be concentration. If we make a mistake we will be punished immediately."
Estonia coach Jelle Goes noted that his team had created nine scoring chances in the first game between the sides, while Israel had made only three.
Goes however praised the Israeli side, saying it was the clear favorite. "Israel is an outstanding home team that combines young players like Toto Tamuz and Yuval Spungin with veteran players," Goes said.
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