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National team coach Richard Nielsen will today announce his squad to face Austria on Saturday in World Cup qualifying competition.

There is a serious question mark over the fitness of Maccabi Tel Aviv central defender Amir Shelah. The veteran player, who holds the record for the number of appearances by an Israeli in the national team (84), did not play for his club last night in their 4-0 league victory over Maccabi Netanya. He failed a pre-match fitness test after being injured in last week's UEFA Cup tie against Roda Kerkrade in the Netherlands.

Nielsen may, however, decide to call up Shelah, as he may recover in time for the match at the national stadium on Saturday night. The squad will convene for training tomorrow and will be joined by Haim Revivo on Wednesday.

Israel must beat Austria to capture second place in European qualifying group 7 in order to meet Turkey in a play off for the right to advance to the finals in Japan and Korea next summer. Spain have already won the group and secured the automatic qualifying spot.

Berkovic sent off

Eyal Berkovic was sent off five minutes from the end of Manchester City's English first division 2-1 loss at Preston North End yesterday.

The Israeli star midfielder, who was making his comeback appearance after recovering from injury, came on as a substitute in the 73rd minute. He was shown the red card after dissenting behavior as the referee failed to award City a penalty in the dying stages of the match.

Berkovic will not be able to return to Israel earlier as his team, City, have a League Cup game to play on Wednesday.

Austrian squad convenes

The Austrian squad will gather at Vienna's Holiday Inn Hotel tomorrow before setting off for Israel on Friday.

Coach Otto Baric will hold a first training session tomorrow before his squad's arrival. There will be further training sessions (two on Wednesday and two on Thursday) and a lone session on Friday evening at the National Stadium, Ramat Gan, which will be open only for the Austrian media.

Midfielder Harald Cerny of TSV 1860 Munich, who said he was joining the nine players who decided to pull out of the squad due to fears to their personal safety, has been ordered to join the squad in Vienna tomorrow for a talk with Baric and Austrian FA head Beppo Mauhart. Cerny is adamant about not coming to Israel, but at the same time does not want to antagonize his FA, which has threatened to take disciplinary action if he refuses to turn up for the team gathering.