Soccer / World Cup / Guttman Revamps His Starting 11 for Luxembourg

Injuries, game fitness affect final lineup.

Head coach Eli Guttman is planning a major overhaul for the men's national soccer team, which faces Luxembourg tonight.

Six of the players who started against Russia when Israel lost 4-0 last month will be on the bench.

The likely starting 11 will be: Dudu Aouate in the goal; defenders Yuval Spungin, Eitan Tibi, Din Mori and Gal Shaish; back midfielders Gal Alberman, Mahran Radi and Bibras Natcho; and Maor Melicsohn, alongside Tomer Hemed and Eden Ben Bassat, in the forward positions.

Melicsohn and Hemed were both removed from the starting 11 for the match against Russia. Hemed did not even play at all that game, and Ben Bassat is making his debut with the national squad.

Guttman said he is not happy about making so many changes among the starters - he also made five between the Azerbaijan and Russia matches - but said a wave of injuries has hit the team and leading players are not getting significant time on the pitch with their regular clubs.

He said the absence of Eran Zehavi and Itay Shechter is particularly significant. The two were in his plans to start.

Although the coach considers Shechter the best striker in Israeli soccer, he says the player is very out of shape. Guttman also noted his disappointment that Shechter left German club Kaiserslautern for the English Premier League.

Aouate is serving as captain in lieu of Yossi Benayoun, who was not called up for the pair of games against Luxembourg in the coming days.

The team atmosphere is good, Guttman said on Thursday. "You can criticize our results," he said. "The results aren't good, but you can't say there are social problems here. We don't disrespect any squad."

Guttman said his toughest problem is the lack of practice days, which is why he focused on players he considers fit enough to last a whole game.

He rejects criticism of the roster and said he was satisfied with his picks.

Nir Keidar