Israel's Tomer Hemed, right, is challenged by Croatia's Darijo Srna during their Euro 2012 group F qualifying match at Maksimir stadium in Zagreb, Croatia, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Striker Tomer Hemed will be looking to help fire Israel to the 2018 World Cup in Russia

Israel’s hopes of reaching a first World Cup since 1970 already seem all but over after they were drawn to face Spain and Italy in yesterday’s qualifying draw for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Drawn in Group G in yesterday’s lavish ceremony in St Petersburg, as well coming up against the two former World champions, they’ll also face Albania, Macedonia and Liechtenstein.

Manager Eli Gutman said: “This is possibly the toughest draw Israeli soccer has received since joining UEFA over 20 years ago. Spain and Italy, former world and European champions, represent the best of world soccer. This is a massive challenge for every coach and every player. It would be wrong to focus on this at the moment as we are resuming our Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in just over a month. We have a real chance of reaching a major tournament and who knows when that might happen next, especially considering the draw for 2018 World Cup qualifying.”

The winners of the group automatically qualify for the tournament, while the runners-up will contest a play-off tie. The qualifying campaign begins in September 2016, ending 14 months later in November 2017.