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Former Israeli national team coach Jacob Grundman died in hospital yesterday after a long battle with cancer, the Israel Football Association (IFA) said in a statement.

Grundman, 65, coached Israel in partnership with Yitzhak Schneor between 1988-92. The duo led Israel to the verge of qualification to the World Cup finals from the Oceania qualifying group but missed the ticket to Italy 1990 in a playoff with Colombia.

The present national team coach Avraham Grant, with whom Grundman had worked as a special assistant, said yesterday that Grundman had been his role model and he had learned many of his coaching methods from him.

Grundman was born in Poland in 1939 and came to Israel with his parents after World War II and the family settled in the Tikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Grundman played right wing for local club Bnei Yehuda, where he was the only Ashkenazi on the team and was dubbed "the Pole." In 1959 he helped the club reach the first division for the first time and in 1961 made his premier for the national team in front of 60,000 fans at Ramat Gan in a 4-2 defeat to Italy. Grundman made a total of eight appearances for Israel with his final game coming in a 3-0 triumph against Hong Kong.

In 1966 at the age of 27 he was appointed coach of Bnei Yehuda and in 1974 he took the State Cup with Hapoel Haifa. The height of his club coaching career came in 1977 when he won the league and cup double with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Grundman was named as Israel's representative in FIFA's Centennial Order of Merit and received his award in hospital the day before his death from IFA chairman Itche Menahem.

World soccer's governing body described him in the honor list as a "Role model and symbol...(who) established himself through his impressive and honorable reputation".

Grundman's coffin will lie in state at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan this morning before his funeral in Ramat Hasharon at noon.