CROISR

Nir Bitton captained Israel in their 2-0 friendly defeat to Croatia

Israel suffered a 2-0 friendly defeat to Croatia on Wednesday night as preparations for their 2018 World Cup qualifiers got off to a losing start.in Osijek.

Playing under interim coach Alon Hazan, the Israelis started off brightly, hitting the woodwork early on, but first half goals from Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic sent Israel to their third successive loss, which saw Yossi Benayoun come on as a 77th minute substitute to record a record 97th cap for Israel.

Hazan said: “The next Israel coach has good reason to be satisfied, of course you can’t be pleased when you lose, but if you examine the match there were quite a few reasons to enjoy the national team’s play against one of the best teams in Europe. We can be optimistic and I’m pleased with everyone that played.”

Celtic midfielder Nir Biton, who was captaining the side, said: “We faced a very strong team on the road, we were excellent in the second half and we have plenty to be proud of. We have experienced players who can hopefully finally take us to a major tournament.”

Israel host Italy in their first 2018 World Cup qualifier on 5 September